The Monuments Men has everything a successful movie could ask for.  It has an incredibly interesting true story and one of the most stellar casts in a film of recent memory, yet never manages to set the proper tone or tell the story in a coherent and interesting way.  The Monuments Men is written and directed by George Clooney (who also stars in the film) alongside Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, and Cate Blanchett.  They bring to life the true story of seven museum directors, architects, and art historians who during the end of WW2 entered Germany to reclaim stolen art pieces Hitler was planning to use for his museum (or destroy if Germany fell).  The men, led by Lt. Frank Stokes (George Clooney), enter Germany with the Allied forces to reclaim the stolen art and return it to their rightful owners.  In a time when millions of people were dying, saving art was not a priority for most.  Most couldn’t see art being worth human lives, but as Stokes explained to Eisenhower, if you destroy the people’s history as well as their lives then you erase them from existence.  Art is universal, and to the monuments men, something that cannot be owned by single individuals but the the nations the art derives from.  It’s a beautiful idea that on paper sounds like a great movie, yet not even this amazing cast could save the film from the muddiness of the script or the issue of balancing the comedy with one of the most terrible things to happen to humanity in the last few centuries.

the-monuments-men-movie-sceneGeorge Clooney is undeniably magnetic as an actor.  Even if you’re not a fan, you can usually enjoy the movies he’s in or at least get behind his performances.  As a director, Clooney disappoints audiences yet again, to the point where I can’t trust him to make a complete and meaningful picture.  I won’t go into his other films, only to say that each had an incredible cast but always come out extremely forgettable.  The Monuments Men was pushed back a couple months, supposedly because post production was taking much longer than expected, as they were having a difficult time balancing the humor with the drama.  Unfortunately the final product still feels like an incomplete film.  Maybe a couple more months editing could have helped, but I don’t think anything could have saved this film in the long run.  The cast had decent chemistry, but nobody seemed to be trying too hard and seemed to be going through the motions.

It was strange seeing The Monuments Men going into these divested flattened cities, joking around and goofing off.  With the dark subject matter, Clooney attempted to blend some humor together but failed to create an even tone throughout the film.  The actors needed better direction, or at least a better script to go off.  The screenplay was flat and failed to execute much more than over the top lines or misplaced jokes.  As a disappointing film often does, it makes you look back and wonder if expectations were too high, or if the film just not very good.  It’s a combination of both on this one.  With the talent involved, I think critics will be disappointed with an end result that leaves you feeling… well… nothing.

the-monuments-men-movie-poster-30The Monuments Men will certainly not generate the most positive reviews, but is there anything about the film worth checking out?  Sure.  As long as audiences don’t expect too much going into the film, I see certain people enjoying the film.  Sure the actors don’t do anything spectacular, but it’s still cool seeing Bill Murray and Bob Balaban going back and forth, and John Goodman being John Goodman.  It failed to live up to the hype that it inevitably drew on itself, but it’s still a decent film that would be better enjoyed on the couch in your own house, rather than paying to see it in theaters.  If you’ve seen everything else out and don’t expect too much, you may have a semi-enjoyable two hours away from your life in a dark theater.

The Monuments Men is now playing on Video on Demand (VOD).

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.