I’m fairly certain that George Clooney is the reincarnation of Cary Grant. Aside from being killingly charismatic, both are masters of comedic timing. In Clooney’s new film, “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” he proves that being funny is an art form, one in which winks and nods are not required.
The opening title states, “More of this is true than you would believe.” On that note, there’s some incredibly hard stuff to swallow. Small town newspaperman Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), recently dumped by his wife, heads to Iraq for the big scoop. He finds it via Lyn Cassady (Clooney), who was a member of an elite special-forces unit, the First Earth Battalion. Founded by acid-head Vietnam vet Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), they believed that wars could be won utilizing psychic powers (one of which was the ability to telepathically kill goats).
Flashing back 20 years earlier, we are witness to the hilarious training procedures conducted under Django’s supervision. Bridges is firmly in his element in this film, resurrecting his The Dude character in “The Big Lebowski.” He’s the same guy, only older and more crisply fried. There are a lot of Coen-esque (as in the brothers) things going on in “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” but director Grant Heslov’s (producer of “Good Night and Good Luck”) own flair for the absurd is unique.
The casting couldn’t have been any better. Assembled are a gifted group of actors with a flair for wacky. Kevin Spacey shows up nearly halfway through the movie as Hooper, fellow First Earther who puts a hex on Cassady. And, let’s face it, he’s the best backstabber in the business (i.e. ”The Usual Suspects”).
But it’s Clooney who owns this comedic gem. He possesses the rare ability to be self-deprecating and yet shrewd, simultaneously. He draws his audience into his characters with that dazzling charm reserved for only great actors. He has evolved into the classic film star, one who will shine for, hopefully, decades to come.
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- “The Men Who Stare At Goats” plays like a collection of scenes without a central thread uniting them. Perhaps worse than the film’s lack of cohesion is its smugness- the movie practically shouts at the audience, “Laugh already! This is really funny!” Unfortunately, more often that not, the movie simply doesn’t deliver.
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