After winning the Best Picture Oscar for Argo last year, producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov are back. They’ve just released The Monuments Men, a wartime adventure-dramedy that follows a team of art experts who set out to recover high-value paintings and sculptures that the Nazis have stolen or attempted to destroy.
You may have noticed the movie’s 34 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and you may ask yourself how a film directed by George Clooney earned that rating. Simply put, the film is a mess. In many scenes, everything is spelled out through voice overs, letters, and expository, unrealistic dialogue; in other scenes, barely anything is said, and the overpowering orchestral score simulates the over-the-topness one may experience in Woolsey during the YSO Halloween Show. This film has probably the highest ratio of dullness-of-movie to star-power-of-cast I’ve ever seen—subplots and nuanced relationships are disjointed, characters are underwritten, and we don’t spend enough time with any one character to truly empathize with him and understand his deep-seated motives and beliefs. Additionally, during some points in the film, I found myself wondering, “So… what are they trying to do again?” Plot focus and the film’s tone keep changing dramatically; it felt like I wanted a nice, rich, chocolate cake for dessert, but instead someone kept feeding me bites of key lime pie, then meringue, then crème brûlée, then yogurt-covered espresso beans, then tiramisu.
If you can make yourself look past all the bloat, the inconsistencies, and the astonishingly cliché embellishments, there’s something worth paying attention to in The Monuments Men. Wars threaten ways of life, cultures, and scores of creations and accomplishments, and The Monuments Men is unique in that it focuses primarily on these casualties of war rather than its physical atrocities. The powerful moments that do occasionally find their way into the fabric of this movie, however, can’t save it from otherwise being a disappointment.