By Sandra Kraisirideja
“The Men Who Stare at Goats” is a mediocre comedy that relies way too much on voiceover to get from point A to point B, and the caliber of the script does not match the multi-layered talents of its cast.
The highly unusual plot centers around a group of Army soldiers who used mental and spiritual exercises to develop and hone their psychic abilities for use in combat. While this seems an unlikely scenario in the U.S. military, cases of psychic and paranormal activity in the armed forces are not uncommon and author Jon Ronson wrote about it extensively in his book of the same name, which inspired the movie.
The cast includes a powerhouse of leading men: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey who were probably attracted to the satirical aspects of the story, which ridicules the U.S. military by pointing out the lengths it will go to combat its enemies. The script, written by Peter Straughan (“How to Lose Friends & Alienate People), could have been better at executing the comedic aspects of the story.
The plot is just so crazy and haphazard that its hard to follow or understand. The audience is taken from one bizarre scenario to another, hoping it will all make some sense in the end. I suspect these actors were interested in the opportunity to act silly while also being involved with a project that made fun of the military. Not to say they do not respect the military and its personnel. It’s just always better as an actor to be able to say something with your work in addition to showcasing your acting ability.
Director Grant Heslov, who directed a couple of shorts and one independent before taking on the reigns for “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” stays out of the way and lets the actors do their thing. As a longtime friend and business partner of Clooney, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” is Heslov’s chance to show he has the skills to pull in the big money. Given the movie’s unusual premise and lackluster humor it will struggle to get strong word-of-mouth to carry it through to the end of the year.