Friday, February 7, 2014

Monuments Men Could Have Been More Monumental

The Monuments Men opens in theaters February 7, 2014. Photo: Sony Pictures

George Clooney the actor, screenwriter and director presents, The Monuments Men, a true story about how seven unlikely men came to rescue much of the world’s art during World War II today in theaters. It features a great cast, some great photography and a great story. So, why wasn’t the film so great?

The Monuments Men is the fairly unknown true story about an unlikely World War II platoon made up of seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. One of Hitler’s schemes was to steal artwork from other countries and then show them off in his own art museum.


As the Reich fell the “Monuments Men,” as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements. It is a good movie. A very good movie in fact, but it could have been better. Maybe it was rushed into production or communication failed in some way. Sony Pictures describes the film as an action thriller but the film I saw felt like neither. Yes, there are a few moments, but overall the film feels like a mash-up of two TV episodes of M*A*S*H and Hogan’s Heroes without the laugh-track.

Monuments Men is more of a comedy drama, but here too, not enough of either. Despite the good casting, the story doesn’t propel the viewer to identify with the characters nor does it give the humor a chance to succeed. Clooney tries, but for some reason, keeps running up short. The story has a lot natural opportunities for some humorous bits and the movie takes advantage of them, but not to the fullest. Each soldier is over-aged, overweight or both. Each comedy bit is set up and then set up and then set up some more and then…the sound of crickets. No pay off. It is almost as if Clooney was afraid that if a scene was too funny, that somehow it would be disrespectful. The great Bill Murray should have shined through this, but instead, he just looks bored to death. Didn’t he like the story?

Then, on the other side, the film offers room for some great dramatic scenes, but they fall somewhat flat because he didn’t build much into the characters. There is very little character development to the story so for the few scenes of suffering characters and you just don’t care because Clooney doesn’t give you much to care about.


What the film does present are seven heroes. Matt Damon portrays a man who remains faithful to his wife. John Goodman is faithful to his fellow comrade. All of them risked their lives for art’s sake and not all of them came home in the end. Monuments Men is good, but it is nothing you need to rush to see in the theaters. 

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