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The Monuments Men

Did you know that The Monuments Men was based on a book?  This means the film is loosely based on true events.  I’m willing to bet the real events were far less muddled.  Yeah, you can see where I’m going with this.

The Monuments Men follows a group of art experts as they travel Europe towards the tail end of WWII, trying to find and preserve art in all forms and protect it from the ravages of war.  Starring every late-middle-aged actor they could get their hands on, the movie is more of a mess than it has any right to be.

Frank Stokes (George Clooney) pitches the idea to save Europe’s art to President Roosevelt in the hopes that they can preserve history for future generations.  His idea is approved and in a quick opening montage we see him recruit his experts.  James Granger (Matt Damon) is the art curator, Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) is the architect, Walter Garfield (John Goodman) is the sculptor, Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) is the artist, Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) is their British escort and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) is…a choreographer?

Once Clooney gets the gang together, they do a few hours of basic training and then boom!  Off to mainland Europe where they all split up and try to find art that hasn’t been stolen while also looking for Nazi art caches.

They find a few and lose a few before finally getting a huge clue by way of sheer luck, at which point the film goes from mildly entertaining to so predictable all I wanted was for it to end.

Oh, and Cate Blanchett is in it too, but her part is so wasted it feels almost as if they tacked it on just to make sure there was a female in the film.

The worst part about The Monuments Men is just how much talent is wasted.  The story jumps all over the place and is incredibly muddled in the middle.  They spend no time developing any characters beyond a single note, so when bad things inevitably happen in this time of war, it’s hard to care.

It honestly feels like an Oceans movie.  Think about it.  Clooney gets a gang together to accomplish an almost impossible task.  They plan it out then split up only to have everyone snake back together towards the end.  There’s also a climax that is both predictable and zany.

Too bad this one was more like Oceans 12 than Oceans 11.  Bill Murray, John Goodman and Bob Balaban especially are just fantastic, playing off each other with such laid-back skill you can’t help but enjoy their time on screen.  The shame of it is that nobody gets enough time, and the plot is constantly holding everyone back.

Just one week after my spring movie preview, it looks like I’m 0-1.