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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Clooney’s new WWII drama can’t pick a tone

    Even though “The Monuments Men” has star-studded cast, it does not automatically result in a blockbuster hit.

    The film is a WWII drama and the fifth movie George Clooney has directed. It stars Clooney as art-historian Frank Stokes. The character is tasked with leading a team of unlikely art lovers into Europe to locate and retrieve legendary art that has been stolen by the Nazis. Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville join him on this journey, but as was the case in the last two films directed by Clooney, “Leatherheads” and “Ides of March,” it falls short of its potential.

    From the onset, the film struggles to find a consistent tone and has no identity. At times it feels like a comedy, except it isn’t that funny. It never achieves the comedic potential of the Murray-Balaban odd-couple pairing. Other times it has drama and some action, but it’s hardly a serious movie. The score is upbeat and cheery.

    Clooney knows he’s dealing with the serious topic of war, but doesn’t acknowledge the gravity of the situation until late in the film. In one scene, the men discover a barrel of gold teeth and take a second to consider where the teeth came from. It’s a mildly harrowing moment, but it’s one that isn’t earned and feels rather manufactured. There are numerous scenes in which Clooney tries to add deeper elements to the hollow script and it doesn’t work. The film is frustrating because there are flashes of greatness throughout, but is hindered by poor filmmaking that can’t put it all together.

    As can be expected from the cast, the performances are all good. There are some great scenes as well, namely one involving Goodman, Dujardin and a horse, but they’re few and far between. “The Monuments Men” has no idea what kind of film it wants to be and ends up feeling very rushed. The main idea of the film is that art embodies the lives of people and their history. Clooney’s directing is in the right place but his execution is poor. He gets distracted, diverting from the main point on numerous occasions to focus on the lives of the individual men. Yet, he doesn’t dive deep enough into their characters to make it worthwhile. There is little in the film to make you care about these men past the noble cause that they’re fighting for. It’s a wine-tasting experience. You get a hint of each man’s story, but never a full serving.

    “The Monuments Men” contains many subplots, but none of them lead to anything. For example, Damon and Cate Blanchett share a weird one-sided romantic love affair that has no rhyme or reason to it. It gives Blanchett a chance to show her acting chops, but the most Clooney gets out of it is a witty one-liner toward the movie’s climax.

    Because the story and characters are so empty, the dramatics of the film simply aren’t very dramatic. One of the characters dies defending a relic, which is an event that continually is brought up in the third act of the film. The audience shrugs because they aren’t very connected to the deceased character.

    The two months between New Year’s and the Oscars are notorious for being the worst time of year for moviegoers. This time is called “Dumpuary.” Hollywood releases the films that weren’t good enough for awards consideration in order to do a bit better in the box office. “The Monuments Men” was originally scheduled for a December release date before being moved back to February. It’s a “Dumpuary” movie for sure.

    Clooney is an ideologue. His last film, “The Ides of March” preached to us the corruption in politics. It looked nice and had a murder’s row of a cast, but ultimately fell flat on its face because it thought it was much smarter than it actually was. “The Monuments Men” begins and ends with Clooney explaining to government officials why it’s important to preserve this art, but does little to prove his point.

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