The Men Who Stare At Goats Review

10 Nov

One year ago this very weekend, a friend and I drove to Roswell, New Mexico in hopes to be cast as extras in a new George Clooney/Ewan McGregor/Jeff Bridges/Kevin Spacey movie. After standing in line for about two hours, filling out paperwork, lying about our measurements (not because we were too fat or too thin, it’s just that neither of us knew the lengths and widths of random parts of our bodies), we realized that we were going to have to miss three weeks of work to be “background actors.” And neither of us could do that. So we left the line, as well as our hopes, and headed back to Ruidoso. But we kept the paperwork as mementos. At the top of our “measurements” sheet is the then-title of the film, The Men Who Stare At Goats. Well, that’s still the title of the film. When I went in for casting, I figured it was a working title and that it would be sure to change at some point in the production process. I was wrong. That was just the first of the surprises this film had in store for me.

The Men Who Stare At Goats

The Men Who Stare At Goats

The Men Who Stare At Goats follows Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a small-time reporter who flees to Kuwait to find an exciting story after being left by his wife. He finds his story at a hotel bar when he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a Special Forces operator who reveals that he was once a part of the New Earth Army, an army unit with the goal of creating spies with parapsychological abilities. The film then transitions between Lyn’s experiences in the New Earth Army in North Carolina during the 1980s and Lyn and Bob’s unknown mission in Iraq in 2003. (Sidenote: the filming location for both the American army base and the Iraqi desert was New Mexico- because it’s the closest to the Middle East that Hollywood is willing to get).

Okay, so you probably knew all that if you saw the trailer. But here are some things you might not be expecting. Or maybe I should say, here are some things that I was not expecting:

1) It is a straight up comedy. When I first heard of the movie I thought it was going to be a political drama. Thus the name change assumption. Once I saw the trailer, however, I realized there was going to be a significant amount of humor. I then concluded that it would be a dramady. I should really stop assuming things. Not only was the movie funny throughout its entirety, it was silly. It was ridiculous. There were slapstick falls, lighthearted montages, and one really bizarre break of the fourth wall featuring a white background and a Vietnamese soldier. But I don’t want to imply that I didn’t enjoy the comedic elements. In fact I found them to be both enjoyable and hilarious. I just wasn’t expecting so much of them.

2) Bob Wilton is American. Jon Ronson, who the character is based off of and who wrote the book, is Welsh. Ewan McGregor is Scottish. You would think that both of these facts would result in Bob being from some region of the United Kingdom or other, but it’s not so. Ewan McGregor jeopardizes his acting abilities and the movie loses a potentially interesting element because Bob is from Michigan. Even as the “straight man,” Ewan managed to be hilarious, but I still believe the film would have benefited from him being a Brit.

3) Star Wars references. Hearing former-Obi Wan Kenobi talk about Jedi cracked me up. I will say no more.

So is The Men Who Stare at Goats a good surprise? Sure. It was entertaining and humorous and it managed to do a lot with so little story. I’d like to see it another time to better know my stance on it, but in the mean time suffice it to say that I enjoyed it. I recommend it if you really feel like going to see a comedy in the theater sometime in the near future, but if no such feelings arise, you won’t miss out by waiting until the goat-staring men make their way to DVD.

Practicing cloud bursting,



One Response to “The Men Who Stare At Goats Review”

  1. whatthestitch November 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    Awesome! I want to go see this, because I usually like George Clooney’s movies. But now that I know it’s slapstick, I want to see it even more. I feel like that’s an oft-ignored part of comedy in American film. Hoorah slapstick!

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