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A monumental sigh

Latest Clooney offering a collosal waste

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 06:00 am

BAD GUYS Ė An all-star cast that insists on talking is just one of the weak spots in The Monuments Men.
BAD GUYS Ė An all-star cast that insists on talking is just one of the weak spots in The Monuments Men.
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Preview

The Monuments Men
Stars: 0.0
Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban
Directed by George Clooney
Written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, based on the book by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter
Rated: PG for profanity and some violence. See www.albertafilmratings.ca for more information.
Runtime: 118 minutes
Now playing at Grandin Theatres, Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatre

It comes with a special level of disappointment and disgust that I attended a screening of The Monuments Men and left the theatre before the movie was even over, muttering profanities not so much under my breath.

With all of my eager anticipation for the moment Ė the grand casting, the once deft voice of screenwriter Grant Heslov, and the ultimately important and compelling subject matter Ė I was left mocking it all and very sad indeed about the whole affair.

This was a movie on which I had placed no small amount of hope. Monuments Men had every opportunity to offer something to the world. Tragically, it squandered all of them. Itís like it won a fortune and spent it all dollar by dollar on video lottery machines. What a colossal waste.

The story is a retelling of the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. Itís a non-fiction account of the modest troop of non-military American cultural personnel during the Second World War. There was Frank Stokes (co-writer/director/star George Clooney), who assembled the team of architects, artists and art aficionados of all sorts including James Granger (Matt Damon), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban).

Joining Granger was Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), perhaps the briefest character to grace this movie and the only one portrayed with sufficient competency as to be believable. Blanchett, at the least, understands the nuances of accents and dialects. At the most, she gets how acting should be about not trying so hard to act. Are you listening, Georgy and Matty?

Blanchett aside, The Monuments Men is an inconsequential and egregious bastardization of an important story about the monumental value of art to a particular culture and to the world in general. The weight of the tale is given short shrift by Clooney, perhaps the most smug, self-aggrandizing and really ridiculously good-looking man on the planet who can charm and smarm his way into any situation.

Any viewer might easily think this movie is a love letter to the selfless and brave few who risked all to fight for and save so many cultural artifacts but itís really a love letter from Clooney to himself. He adds as much pompous voiceover narration as he can get away with while wearing a helmet in as many non-helmet appropriate scenes, just to show that his character really was putting his life on the line, nary a bullet ever shot in a scene featuring Mr. Dignified Grey Hair Clooney himself.

What a superficial and artificial waste of time, money and celluloid. This is a movie that would have been much improved without the benefit of star power or dialogue. The lame dialogue (provided by longtime collaborator Grant Heslov) is entirely dragged through the mud. Things would be improved greatly if this was a silent film. I havenít even mentioned the brutal American nationalist sentimentalism thatís poured over the entire finished product like a layer of chemical syrup over too many bleached white flour pancakes.

I was nauseated throughout the whole experience. Even the fantasy of coming across a stolen Rembrandt, Renoir, Vermeer or Rodin was stultified by some characters blathering about this or that. Most times I couldnít be bothered to pay attention to their nonsense. Even if some of the cinematography is meant to call to mind such classical works, it was all for naught. The old masters are not just rolling over in their graves at the thought of this atrocity. They are rallying and rebelling.

This is a drama overtaken by a camp comedy directed by a pretentious, preening, prancing pony. I imagine that Clooney meant to do a better job if only he could have stopped looking at himself in the mirror long enough to stand behind the camera and see what an absurdist farce was unfolding where a weighty and tender thought piece should have been.

Audiences should expect more from filmmakers, especially those, like Clooney, who think so much of themselves.


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