I wanted to like The Monuments Men. Actually, I wanted to love it. I mean, off the bat, what’s not to love. George Clooney. Matt Damon. Need I go on? But, we also have Hugh Bonneville, who I love from TV’s Downton Abbey. And then also Jean Dujardin, the sexy Oscar-winner from The Artist. Add in favorites Bill Murray and John Goodman for comic relief and you have a dynamite cast that could rival the cast of Clooney and Damon’s Ocean’s movies.
Alas, I should have just watched this one on mute and looked at the pretty scenery (and also the French countryside). But, I did not. And while it’s not a horrible movie, it sure does not live up to the full potential of its illustrious cast.
The basis for the story provide so much meat that there is no excuse why this is not a great film. Sadly, I have to fault the screenplay, written by Clooney and his writing/producing partner Grant Heslow, as well as the direction, also by Clooney (but mostly the script). Many times here, I felt there were missed opportunities to keep the story moving. And many other times, I felt that scenes of no or little importance dragged on way too long. Some scenes were taken directly from other Clooney movies, such as the “plan” scene where Clooney’s character talks with Damon’s character about the job they will be doing and how many men they will need to do said job. That is right out of the Clooney/Brad Pitt scene (also at a bar) from early on in Ocean’s Eleven where they also talk about rounding up their crew.
The story, based on true World War II events, deals with Clooney and his men (chosen because they are all art historians or restorers or something to do with the arts) sent into frontlines Europe to find stolen art masterpieces that Hitler and the Nazis have hidden (and in some cases, destroyed). What a fantastic premise to work with, right? But, even though the premise has tons of potential, the movie is slow and drawn-out (in the wrong places) and basically, shall I say it, boring.
Clooney’s previous directorial efforts include the quirky Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the serious Good Night and Good Luck, the fun Leatherheads and the political The Ides of March. So, now he can add “the dull Monuments Men” to that list. Sorry, George. Maybe we can give you a do-over here. Try making the film again but this time, focus more on the great story you have to work with rather than on slow moving scenes that do not go anywhere. Keep the same cast please. And, one last piece of advice, maybe a shirtless scene or two. That would help the plot immensely!
The Monuments Men is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.