Goats01

This is the best article you’ve ever read!

This is the best article you’ve ever read!

Ok, now I’ve laid down the Jedi Mind Trick I can pretty much write whatever I want.

Not content with acting, writing and producing (mostly on George Clooney projects), Grant Heslov has now turned his hand to directing, with this wacky feature produced through Smokehouse Pictures (Heslov and Clooney’s production company). The Men who Stare at Goats is based on Jon Ronson’s non-fiction bestseller of the same title and tells the story of the US military’s attempts to train a squad of Jedi-like psychic soldiers, who use mind powers as their weapons instead of guns.

The comical events of the story revolve around reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) as he escapes a broken heart by doing what all men with broken hearts do, go to war. Searching for a story in Iraq, Wilton stumbles across ex-psychic soldier (and titular Goat Starer!) Lyn Cassady, who believes he’s been reactivated on one last mission to locate his former mentor Bill Django (Jeff Bridges reprising his ‘dude’ mentality from The Big Lebowski).

Goats02I liked Heslov’s movie, but that’s as enthusiastic I’m going to get about it. It was far too hit and miss to be anything above average and if it hadn’t been for the director’s ability to assemble a formidable cast, this movie could have easily slipped below that mark. In all honesty, I don’t think it’s actually possible for any film featuring George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges to be anything less than enjoyable. With Clooney and McGregor (surely only in the film to make the Jedi references funnier) consuming most of the screen-time, it’s somewhat surprising it’s Bridges and Spacey who provide the majority of the comic moments.

The bulk of The Men who Stare at Goats’ laughs come from sight gags and slapstick-like skits, whether it’s a psychic soldier unsuccessfully trying to run through walls or another failing with a leap of faith, they do feel a little like cheap-shots aimed at new-age techniques and spiritual thinking. Not that there’s anything wrong with a little cheap humour every now and then.

I think if I had seen this film at my local cineplex style cinema, I would have been perfectly happy with what I had just viewed. Unfortunately for Heslov’s movie, I saw it at the London Film Festival surrounded by some better looking films, some funnier films, some more substantial films and The Men who stare at Goats didn’t quite rise to the level of the rest of LFF’s programme.  The fact that this was my third favourite Clooney film I’d seen in 5 days, should tell you enough about The Men who Stare at Goats.

It’s almost like the production team had such an interesting story and such a fantastic cast, they felt like they didn’t need to do anything else. Some advice Mr Heslov, well to quote the Jedi – “Your overconfidence is your weakness.”(did you like the way I just added that whole last paragraph to get a Jedi quote in?…respect my Geekness!)

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