This may be the hardest review I’ve ever written. This is not because there is so much adoration or criticism coursing through my brain that I can’t sort it out into words. No, it’s because about ten minutes after watching the movie, I forgot that I had watched it. The Men Who Stare At Goats is so absolutely middle-of-the-road that I almost wished it had sucked so that I would have something to say.
The movie tells the (limitedly) true story of a reporter (Ewan McGregor), who flies off to Iraq in order to find, and write about, an amazing story that will convince his wife to come back to him. There he meets a possibly delusional “former” soldier (George Clooney), who was trained, during a special initiative, decades earlier, to be a psychic soldier. Together, they go on something of an adventure through the desert, fulfilling what Clooney’s character believes is a mission which he was given, through psychic channels, by his deposed former commanding officer (Jeff Bridges). Yes, it is weird. But no, it is not weird enough to blow your mind. It’s more of an irritating never-quite-resolved sort of weird.
Along the same lines as the weird, something else that The Men Who Stare At Goats is but isn’t is funny. Occasionally, there is a chuckle to be had at the images of Clooney with long-ish hair, undergoing his hippy, psyshic training, but most of the movie’s biggest “laughs” are darkly uncomfortable. Firstly, MacGregor and Clooney are driving along through the desert, when *boom*, their vehicle hits a roadside bomb. The tone of the film at this point, coupled with its unexpected nature seems to be suggesting that this should be funny. However, in a world where soldiers are regularly killed by IED’s, it comes across as collar-tuggingly tasteless. See also the scene where a soldier gets hopped up on LSD and threatens to shoot everyone in his training camp, but he’s naked, so it’s funny, right? Sure it is, Men Who Stare At Goats, sure it is.
Combined with this so-called humour, the movie also never really puts anything on the line. A war story wrapped up in slapstick clothes, it doesn’t really have its own voice. Never before have I seen a movie that I was so certain I would have no reason to talk about beyond this review; its wholly encompassing okayness makes sure that that is the case.