The Men Who Stare at Goats is a quirky, too clever for its own good dramedy which features the all-star cast of George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.
The film centers on Bob Wilton (McGregor), a journalist who uncovers a secret military organization known as The First Earth Battalion. The organization believes in the expansion of the human mind to unlock the paranormal abilities within. They claim they can bend spoons with their mind, phase through walls, stop wars, and yes having staring contests with goats until they can stop the goat’s heart with a single though. No one has heard from the Battalion in twenty years but Bob uncovers their prized agent Lyn Cassady (Clooney) when he journeys to Kuwait on a overseas assignment.
The humor in Men Who Stare at Goats runs out of steam about half way through when the back story about the evolution of the Earth Battalion becomes more interesting than Clooney and McGregor’s desert trip. When the humor stops so does the movie with a thud. It is a shame since the film is probably one of the most original I have seen in months. Another shame is that all the biggest laughs are in the trailer. When are they going to learn to hold something back?
The humor is part Coen Brothers, part Arrested Development and part Royal Tenenbaums. It works to a point but just never secures the foothold it wants in the movie as a whole and I think that has to do with the inexperience of director Grant Henslov who probably could have used an extra hand with maintaining the film’s tone and laughs.
I did find it hysterical when you have former Star Wars star Ewan McGregor asking Clooney if he is a Jedi and that the force is strong with this one. The Battalion refers to their best as Jedis. That part is hysterical.
I liked the performances of all the leads except maybe Spacey who for me felt like caricature than anything else. I also loved the character role by Stephen Lang who is absolutely priceless in the film’s opening two minutes.
I actually expected a lot more from this movie. I wonder if it would have been more successful if they could have maintained a tighter story and gave it a name change. Why not just call it American Jedi? Or would that have pissed off George Lucas?
3 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.