Laura Macgruder
Owen Gleiberman
November 06, 2009 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Men Who Stare at Goats

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
93 minutes
Wide Release Date
11/06/09
performer
George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey
director
Grant Heslov
distributor
Overture
author
Peter Straughan
genre
Comedy

We gave it an F

In The Men Who Stare at Goats, George Clooney, as one of the founders of a crackpot U.S. military unit, wears a mustache that makes him look like Dennis Farina, and he does his best to act cool, calm, and collected — which sets him in marked contrast to all the flakes and hysterics around him. The movie is one of those over-the-top absurdist antiwar ”satires” that are inevitably likened to Dr. Strangelove, though a better comparison might be the fractious, madcap-incoherent film version of Catch-22. The Men Who Stare at Goats was directed by Grant Heslov (he worked with Clooney as a producer on Leatherheads and Good Night, and Good Luck), but in this case ”directed” is a charitable word.

Spinning out the tall tale of a battalion of New Age paranormal soldiers who were trained, during Vietnam, to don cloaks of ? invisibility, kill goats with their minds, and generally turn war into a groovy thing, Heslov slaps gags together and never begins to find a point of view. Actors like Jeff Bridges (in a ponytail) and Kevin Spacey (in the worst hairpiece of his career) jabber away as if locked in their own private acting classes, and Ewan McGregor, as the reporter who tags along with Clooney when the troop is revived to help fight the war in Iraq (see, it’s a topical movie!), looks about as lost as you’ll feel. The Men Who Stare at Goats is a magical-realist sitcom war farce that ends up being about nothing but its own slovenly smugness. F

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