On paper – on canvas – this should really have worked a lot better than it did. The Monuments Men tells the story of a group of Yankee art lovers who quickly throw themselves through basic military training so they can get the OK from Roosevelt to recover a bunch of historic artifacts – or monuments – that Hitler is claiming for himself. Then you look at the poster – Clooney, Damon, Goodman, Murray – they’re all there, in a sort of exciting Oceans Eleven re-teaming, but this time, set in WWII.
Holy shit – did it have to be so boring and confused? This is more like ‘Leatherheads’ Clooney than ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ Clooney. Could it be that he’s spreading himself too thin in writing, producing directing AND starring? I don’t know – I think the issue here is that there’s plainly not enough story and certainly not enough happening in these events based on a true story. Sure, it’s important to keep art alive and out of the hands of the ‘do-badding’. Let’s put it this way; if the Germans do try it again, and decide to add great cinematic artwork alongside the Madonna and Mona Lisa, then if the original 35mm print of The Monuments Men is one of the ‘valuables’, I think we can probably just sit that one out.
The real crux of the problem is that this film is a mess. A pious, preachy mess. Oceans Twelve this ain’t. But then again, it’s hardly the Dirty Dozen, either. It’s just sort of – nothing. It’s bit part with teams of players, and none of them are used to their fullest. Bill Murray and Bob Balaban on screen in any other movie would be a real hoot, I’m sure. Here, they’re sort of standing around looking funny with their squinted eyes and shrugged shoulders. When that isn’t happening, gramophone music underpins their cause and any humour is vacuumed from the film. Goodman is one of the few that emerges unscathed – and in trying to scathe that vast canvas, it would seem anyone would fail – least of all Clooney.
Protracted, long and drawn-out and overstated beyond belief – much like its source material, The Monuments Men is a worthy cause of a story well worth telling. But Clooney and co. (who’d have thunk it?) prove not to be the team to do it.
Author: Andrew Mackay