Movie review: A small “Monuments Men”

monuments_men

By Jim Tortolano  E Pluribus Unum

You want to like “The Monuments Men,” the feel-good war story from George Clooney.  Good vs. evil. Americans vs. Nazis. An all-star cast.

But “Men” ends up being a mildly-entertaining, sometimes boring movie despite the crinkly smile of Clooney and the non-inconsiderable talents of Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and others.

Loosely based on a true story, “Men” is about a special unit of the U.S. Army (recruited from among art scholars) in World War II to preserve and recover paintings, sculptures and other creative works from Nazis.

Each of the major characters are introduced in a more-or-less comic fashion and this assembly of heroes is a sort of Ivy League version of “The Dirty Dozen.” It’s fun to see these skilled actors brought together in the worthy cause of emphasizing the importance of art in Western Civilization.

But the screenplay, written by Clooney and Grant Heslov, drags in places and gives no one other than Blanchett an opportunity to do much acting. Trying to tell a morality tale with such a big ensemble cast is a challenge, and this movie was not up to it.

The film picks up toward the end, and a speech by Clooney’s character (Lt. Frank Stokes) to a German colonel is a minor masterpiece of down-home American idealism.

But otherwise, this PG-13 movie (some war violence) turns out to be little more than a cinematic skirmish, rather than the smashing victory a lot of Clooney’s fans hoped it would be.

Jim’s grade: B-.

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