Combustible Celluloid
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With: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Waleed Zuaiter, Stephen Root, Glenn Morshower, Nick Offerman, Tim Griffin, Rebecca Mader, Jacob Browne, Todd La Tourrette, Brad Grunberg
Written by: Peter Straughan, based on a book by Jon Ronson
Directed by: Grant Heslov
MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity
Running Time: 93
Date: 09/08/2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Goat Check

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Men Who Stare at Goats is a lot like Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! -- a deadpan, semi-screwball comedy, supposedly based on real events. The handsome leading men in both films appear as exaggerated comic buffoons (both wearing moustaches), but with a certain underlying wisdom. In both cases, the men are sure of themselves, even if the movie is not. Soderbergh managed to move his film forward with a kind of heist-movie rhythm, but The Men Who Stare at Goats feels all too light; it's a movie wherein all the best, funniest bits were shown in the trailer.

George Clooney is the star with the moustache, but the movie's hero is Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a reporter for a small Ann Arbor paper. He interviews a local man (Stephen Root) who claims to have certain psychic abilities, and mentions others like him. When Bob goes to Iraq (in a vain attempt to win back his estranged wife), he meets another, more powerful psychic, Lyn Cassady (Clooney). Lyn is now on a new mission and decides to take Bob with him. Bob learns about an entire top secret, now-defunct military program led by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), designed to create peace-oriented super-soldiers with various psychic abilities; they're dubbed the "Jedi," which is bound to get laughs concerning McGregor's former occupation in the Star Wars films.

Both this and The Informant! made me think of Joel and Ethan Coen's underrated Burn After Reading, which was a similar kind of deadpan absurdist comedy, but one that was perfectly constructed and snapped together with a delightfully ironic conclusion. Lyn and Bob wander amusingly through the desert for a while, and there are lots of funny flashbacks, but the film's payoff lands with a bit of a thud (both too ambitious and too small). Grant Heslov, an actor who co-wrote Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, makes his directorial debut here.

Blu-Ray Details: The Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay comes with two featurettes, deleted scenes, and character bios (which are actually little trailers), plus a theatrical trailer for this and other Anchor Bay releases. Under "Set Up" and "Audio," there are two commentary tracks, one by director Heslov and another by author Jon Ronson.

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