_1253109048You know what is wrong with this movie? It tells the wrong story. The Men Who Stare at Goats tells 2 stories: the first is set in the present day and it follows George Clooney and Ewan McGregor through Iraq. The second story covers the 1970s thru the 80s and it describes the creation of the U.S. military’s psychic/super-soldier program. The first story is uninteresting, meandering, poorly paced, and full of exposition. This story ruins the entire film and I wish it was never told. The second story is hilarious and interesting and had the film been entirely focused on this, it would have made for a wonderful movie worthy of my recommendation.

The Men Who Stare at Goats begins with Ewan McGregor, a newspaper reporter with big aspirations in a dead-end job. He ends up in the Middle East in the pursuit to become a war correspondent and he meets up with George Clooney, a former U.S. military psi-ops operative. McGregor is taken in by Clooney’s eccentricity and crazy tales of the military’s program to develop super-soldiers with psychic abilities. McGregor sees Clooney as an opportunity to get his big break as a war correspondent so the two of them embark toward Iraq. The film flashes back and forth between Clooney and McGregor’s present adventure and Clooney’s recollection of the beginnings and development of the military’s psi-ops program.

Without the impeccable casting of the film, The Men Who Stare at Goats would be a mediocre film. George Clooney and Ewan McGregor both fit and embody their roles well. McGregor gives a more subdued, straight performance when compared to his past roles, but he does it well here. After Intolerable Cruelty, O Brother Where Art Thou, and Burn After Reading, Clooney seems to have developed a knack for off-beat comedic roles and he continues that trend in this movie. Clooney plays the role with such intense seriousness that it borders on insanity. He’s the homeless guy you see standing at freeway exits with a sign and wearing a veterans jacket. As good as the McGregor and Clooney team is, the film really shines with the remainder of the cast: Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, and a too brief of an appearance by Robert Patrick. Jeff Bridges is PERFECT as the stoned, hippie soldier assigned to run the military’s psi-ops program. The shit he’s shown to get away with using the U.S. government’s money is hilarious and it got me wondering how much of the real Jeff Bridges was incorporated into this role. Kevin Spacey is EXCELLENT here as well. He plays one of Bridge’s students in the program and he’s a real asshole. I have not enjoyed Spacey this much in a movie since American Beauty. He brings back the dry, sarcastic humor he has played so well in past films.

As I said before, the reason this film falls apart is due to how weak the present-day narrative is. For a 1 hour 33 minute film, The Men Who Stare at Goats sure felt like it was a hell of a lot longer and I blame this on the plodding pace of the present narrative. The story never seems to go anywhere and instead goes from one situation to another without any tying elements. Most disappointingly, the film’s climax felt hashed together and anticlimactic. The filmmakers seemed unsure of how to end the film and so they create this implausible setup that doesn’t work in the end. On the other hand, the second narrative is very entertaining, which Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey can be given much credit for. The development of the psi-ops program is interesting and most of the film’s comedy is contained in this narrative. The second story reminded me a lot of the movie Stripes and I think had the filmmakers stuck to just telling this story, they could have had a much wider appealing and more interesting film.

As you can see, I was disappointed in The Men Who Stare at Goats. It didn’t move in the direction which I felt it should have gone in and, as a result, it took a great idea and crapped all over it.

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