Friday, February 05, 2010
It's a hotel room in Kuwait. George Clooney sits on the bed and explains a Jedi warrior to Ewan McGregor. This is probably the movie joke that's easiest to understand in The Men Who Stare At Goats. If you know why "Ask Angela Lansbury" is funny, pat yourself on the back. If you don't, it's hard to tell you why without ruining the experience of a classic film (and I don't mean this one) for you. Jeff Bridges taps into Jeffrey Lebowski as he plays Bill Django, who, after an epiphany during the Vietnam War, goes hippy and returns to found the New Earth Army -- an army of modern-day Obi Wans. George Clooney plays Lyn Cassady with his mix of star power and whimsy. His straight face gets all the laughs you can ask for while the content of McGregor's voiceover keeps you smiling. Kevin Spacey, as the villain of the piece, seems to be trying to explore nooks and crannies in the ham sandwich showroom. This drama of men is not a dark brooding allegorical meditation like Apocalypse Now or Platoon or even the starkly straight-faced Full Metal Jacket. There isn't anything terribly profound in the goings-on even though the dark comedy skewers popular culture and American silliness while reinforcing everything we might have thought was wrong with the army. With several quotable lines, the only problem is that this quirky and bizarre flick works without any bite. It seems to miss the optimum trajectory.