The Big Screen
12:00 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Movie Review: The Monuments Men

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to over anticipate a new film, as it can often end in disappointment. That happened to me last year with Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. And now it’s happened again with George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. And although it pains me to say so, the fault has to lie with Clooney himself for choosing to wear so many hats on one head. He starred, directed, produced, and co-wrote this tale of World War II intrigue. We already know he’s a really capable actor and director. Maybe he should stick to doing what he does best instead of trying to cover all the bases himself.

Based on a true story, or stories, The Monuments Men is about a hand picked group of artisans who are assigned to find and rescue all the art stolen by the Nazis in Europe. Given that one line synopsis, you might expect a film that’s maybe a little Oceans 11 with a splash of The Dirty Dozen. Unfortunately, it never comes close to having that kind of interest or energy.

The plot seems to be totally disjointed, running all over the place with very little cohesiveness. The dialogue throws out the occasional one-liner to the Bob Balaban or Bill Murray characters just to invoke a laugh and hopefully provoke interest.

And speaking of the cast, in addition to George Clooney, there’s Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville from “Downtown Abbey,” Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin--an Oscar-winner himself for The Artist a few years back—the omnipresent John Goodman and the aforementioned Balaban and Murray. Even with a dream cast like that, it seems to be actually miscast. Or underwritten. Or both. Most of actors seem as if they’re trying to avoid walking into the furniture. The only two performances of any note are from Bonneville and Dujardin. We get just enough of their backstory to give some insight into their characters. Blanchett seems to be totally lost as to what’s going on, and at times, I was wondering if Murray was even awake.

Without naming names, when the action needed to be moved along, one of the characters was killed off.  Even the music by the usually dependable Alexandre Desplat seemed derivative and at times annoying. I was starting to worry when Sony Pictures moved The Monuments Men out of a Christmas release date into the first week in February. There can be a legitimate technical reason for such a move, but more often than not, it can be taken as a sign of the studio having no confidence in the film.

But despite my previously noted reservations about The Monuments Men, and the fact that in some spots it is seriously dull, I hesitate to call The Monuments Men a bad film. It seemingly has all the right ingredients, but they were wrong for this stew to be appetizing. Let’s just say that, once again, over anticipation has led to major disappointment. And sometimes “bad” is easier to accept than “disappointing.”

You may enjoy The Monuments Men, but it might be better served at home on DVD rental when it comes out in that format. Not only is it not worth the cost of a full-price movie ticket, but also the fast-forward button might come in handy.

The PG-13 rated The Monuments Men  is now showing just about everywhere.

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