The Monuments Men

Movie Review #808: You’ll quite likely find yourself entertained by ‘The Monuments Men’, but whether or not you also feel cheated depends on your tolerance for a very, very cheesy movie.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano
monuments_men

Biography, Drama, War
Rated PG-13 (contains war violence, profanity)
118 minutes

I’m not sure enough people have pointed out what’s so ironic about “The Monuments Men”, a movie about Nazis who have stolen art and a group of soldiers that tries to restore the art before it is destroyed. Regardless, I find it rather amusing that a movie about art theft is an art theft of its own. Think “Raiders of the Lost Ark” meets “The Longest Day” meets “Ocean’s Eleven”.

But more than anything, the movie longs to be “Ocean’s Eleven”. If you’ve seen that film, you’ve already seen “The Monuments Men”. They’re both movies where George Clooney personally decides to lead a group on a risky mission, and the group is made up of A-list male actors. The only difference is that “The Monuments Men” also has George Clooney as director, producer, and co-writer (with Grant Heslov), and it takes place during the last years of World War II.

This isn’t a World War II movie. If this were an ‘80s Brat Pack movie, it’d be the same thing, just with young people. The cast here is like a frat full of Hollywood’s 40-to-70 demographic. Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, and Hugh Bonneville all star here. Clooney and Damon seem to stand out the most in this cast, of course, with Murray and Goodman playing second fiddle to them both. Murray’s character is the most undeveloped of all of them, actually. One moment, he’s just a Clooney minion, and the next, he’s a leader of his own.

The biggest disappointment here is how underused Jean Dujardin is in the movie. The camera constantly points to his charismatic smile, which is what made us want more of him after “The Artist”, and then again after his cameo in last year’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”. But the man can talk. Yes, “The Artist” was a silent film, but that does not make him a %#@!ing mute. He gives a brief speech in this movie—the moment we all think, “So that’s what he sounds like!” He had maybe four other lines in the whole movie. I can recite two of them off the top of my head. The first one is “Bonjour.” Another one is “No.”

If you look at it one way, “The Monuments Men” transcends previous Clooney/Heslov screenplays. Whereas movies like “Good Night, and Good Luck.” and “The Ides of March” rushed to get to the ending, and made little sense in doing so, “The Monuments Men” takes its time. It’s also very well paced. The movie flies by, but maybe this is because it’s just having too much fun. This lacks the political intrigue of “Good Night” and “Ides” and instead features cheesy dialogue fit for a feel-good Disney movie. There’s more comedy here than there is drama, and yet its initial promise seems to be drama over all else.

When “Inglourious Basterds” hit theaters in 2009, the main criticism it received was that it was too cartoonish. Five years have passed now, and here’s a movie that’s not even aware of how cartoonish it is. The cartoonishness can be very fun at times, but I feel that it shouldn’t be at all. This is a movie that doesn’t present any of the horrors of war in a convincing manner. In fact, it makes war seem like Boy Scout camp. ✴

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