White text on a black screen prefaces The Men Who Stare at Goats with, “More of this is true than you would believe.”
After his marriage fails, reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor, The Island) decides to prove himself by becoming an embedded journalist in the Middle East. There he meets special forces agent Lyn Cassady (George Clooney, Burn After Reading) who reveals the existence of a secret, psychic military unit that call themselves “Jedi warriors,” whose goal is to end war through peace.
Things we liked about the movie:
1. This is a top-notch cast of outstanding talent. Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) is hilarious as acid-tripping Army officer Bill Django. Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns) channels his inner sleaze as Django’s smarmy, sarcastic rival. McGregor is wonderfully deadpan and adorably droll, playing the straight man among the cast of weirdos. But the show stealer is undeniably Clooney. Every twitch, every mannerism, every gaze is pitch perfect.
2. The songs they used, particularly Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” fit so perfectly they could’ve been written specifically to be in this movie.
3. Casting McGregor, who also played the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, as the reporter who was unfamiliar with what a Jedi was, added an ironic layer of humor.
Things we disliked about the movie:
1. Director Grant Heslov seems to have a bit of trouble nailing a specific tone. Goats bounces around from broad slapstick, pointed satire, political statements and uncomfortable moments of drama (including references to Blackwater and Abu Ghraib).
2. Speaking of uncomfortable moments, there is a scene involving an acid-fried soldier shooting randomly on an Army base. It’s completely unnecessary and way too reminiscent of the past week’s events at Fort Hood. The bad timing isn’t the movie’s fault, but it still was unsettling.
3. Without giving too much away, we would have liked the movie to let the audience decide whether or not the Jedi methods worked. But sadly, they chose a side, and I think Goats was the lesser for it.
All in all, The Men Who Stare at Goats is entertaining and some parts made us laugh. But then again, some parts didn’t.