“What is all of this?”
Boasting a star-studded cast, “The Monuments Men” delivers a heartfelt story, but an anticlimactic one at that.
The movie centers on a hodge-podge group of art scholars and professionals who are recruited to join a platoon whose sole job it was to find art pieces stolen by the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners. George Clooney, who co-wrote, stars in, and directs the movie, is Frank Stokes, the leader of the group. He is joined by Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban as they make their way across war-torn Europe on a treasure hunt for famous art.
Although the script gives him powerful dialogue, Clooney’s portrayal falls short; lacking the emotional depth and complexity that was hoped for, it comes across as stiff and shallow. He seems to have developed an on-screen personality that he inserts into each role, evident from the fact that it took me three fourths of the movie to stop calling his character George in my mind. Instead of being an individual, unique character, he’s just George, that’s all.
But where Clooney fails, the minor characters shine. The audience is reminded of just how good an actor John Goodman is and that Bill Murray can be more than a funny face. The scenes that stood out are those centering on the pairings of minor characters: a run-in with a Nazi in a country cabin, a tragic scene in a European church and a haunting scene from Christmas time in a military camp. Making up for Clooney’s lackluster performance, these minor characters are the heart of the movie.
The best part about “Monuments Men” was that it put the war in a different perspective. The men it focuses on weren’t soldiers, they weren’t fighting on the front lines, but they were fighting just the same; they were fighting for something entirely different.
“If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants, and it’s the one thing we can’t allow,” narrates George – I mean Frank Stokes. It’s harrowing to think that this movie was based on a true story, that Hitler had his men destroy hundreds of pieces of art because his sole purpose was to obliterate an entire race of people. What’s inspiring is that there was a group of men who knew that losing human lives was worth saving priceless art because that art was someone’s life.
The unfortunate bottom line of “Monuments Men” was that it just wasn’t great. It was slow, making the two-hour running time feel much longer. It wasn’t exciting. Action packed but not an action movie, dramatic but not a drama, amusing but not a comedy, I’m not sure it really knew what to be. That’s not to say that the story wasn’t great, because it was. The story is inspiring and genuine but, typical of movies like this one, the excellent cast and heartfelt story weren’t enough to keep it from falling flat. A general sense of predictability left this moviegoer wishing it had more. Though I desperately wanted to say it wasn’t, “Monuments Men” was simply average.
“The Monuments Men” is playing this week at the Princess Theatre Uptown at 2 p,m,, 4:30 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. everyday.