Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Men Who Stare at Goats

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS is supposedly based on a true story. I have no idea how much is fact and how much is fiction, but whatever the ratio, the blend is an entertaining one for the most part. The story concerns a reporter (Ewan McGregor, sporting a passable American accent) who stumbles on a special Army unit in Iraq conducting research into psychic phenomena. Flashbacks recount the history of the unit, which dates back to the mid-Eighties. It was founded by a soldier played by Jeff Bridges, and one of its most successful recruits is played by George Clooney. At first the unit’s job is remote viewing, “psychic spying” as they refer to it, but over the years they’ve branched out into other things, such as conducting experiments to see if they can kill goats by staring at them and stopping their hearts.

The plot just meanders around and never really generates much suspense or forward momentum, but the sheer goofiness of what’s going on helps to compensate for that. Clearly, the people involved were having fun, which is also a plus. Clooney and Bridges are very good, as always, and McGregor’s okay. Kevin Spacey doesn’t have much to do as a member of the unit who winds up causing trouble.

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS isn’t a great film, just an oddball little movie with quite a few funny moments. It’s worth watching. (And as people who have raised the animals in question, at one point in the movie Livia said the exact same thing I was thinking: “Somebody’s gonna have to round up all those goats.”)


Richard R. said...

A little too oddball for me, I couldn't get interested and bailed about a third of the way in.

Max Allan Collins said...

A lot of people bitch about this movie, but I found it very entertaining, an absurdist CATCH 22-school dark comedy with a bittersweet edge...namely, having fun with the hippie-dippie army program but ultimately seeing that it had a very good heart (and some practical applications).

I read the non-fiction book it was based on -- basically, all of the flashback stuff is true. It utilizes composite characters, but that's a common conceit in a fact-based film.

For some reason, a lot of reviewers and bloggers have dumped on this film, said it was the worst most unfunny comedy ever, etc. They were apparently staring at the goats, not the actors.

Mark Terry said...

I liked it quite a bit, but my wife didn't. It definitely meanders and it's not really clear if there was a point to all of it, although I guess it was gently satirical.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I truly did not get this movie. Not at all. The people we saw it with laughed all the way through it though. I guess senses of humor differ a lot.

Juri said...

A friend of mine dubbed this a "goatsploitation" movie. He had, I think, two other films to offer as examples of the sub-genre, but I forget what they were.

James Reasoner said...

If there are other goatsploitation movies out there, I'd love to know what they are.

Juri said...

I took a look at my friend's Facebook profile and found his original status update. He mentions these two rather obscure films:

The Goat of Christmas Past
Island of Death

And checking further, it seems like the first one is a prank or probably a student movie. The other one is probably this:


Juri said...

Oh, now I get it: The Goat of Christmas Past is indeed a student film, actually made by another friend of mine!