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The Monuments Men (2/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 118 minutes.

OK for children.

I wrote a review shortly after seeing this movie but threw it away. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had to be baldly frank about the quality of this movie.

This movie isn’t just bad, it epitomizes the worst of Hollywood, which glorifies talentless people just because they happen to be stars. George Clooney is a star. If he attaches his name to a project, it’s going to be produced and distributed.

This movie is rubbish. I prefer to use a four letter word, but rubbish will have to do. The script is by Clooney (who also directed, if what he did with this can really be called “directing”) and his partner Grant Heslov. There is no way this script would have been accepted if it had been presented by someone named John Smith. But because Clooney has his name on it, money is thrown at it and it gets produced and distributed and big star Clooney gets to direct. This could have been a terrific, exciting story, but the script is so plodding, so unfocused, so full of trite lines, that it is nothing but a huge bore. It is one of the worst scripts in the history of motion pictures.

They pepper it with lines like the following between a priest who has been hiding some of the art and one of the seven who is helping to take it from him to preserve it:


Are you Catholic, my son?


I am tonight, Father.

Wow! That was a terrific, original line when it was first used, back around 1929 at the dawn of the age of talking movies when they were still advertising films as “all singing, all dancing, all talking.” How many times in succeeding years has this line, or an offshoot of it, been used? Didn’t it outlive its creativity sometime well before Louis B. Mayer was sacked by MGM in 1950? But Clooney is so bereft of originality that he sticks it, and many more hackneyed lines like it, into the mouths of these A-list stars and they actually say them. I’m surprised that “There are no atheists in foxholes” didn’t find its way into the movie. Wouldn’t you think that one would say, “Wait a minute. Unless this is a satire, I’m not going to say this line. Surely you can think of something better and if you tell me to stop calling you Shirley, I’m outa here!” But that would require the presence of a serious actor and these (Clooney, Matt Damon, etc.) are just a bunch of pretty movie stars out for a lark. Why Cate Blanchett signed on to this debacle is anybody’s guess.

Worse than his script, however, is Clooney’s direction, which is plodding and filled with contrived incidents that are about as tense as Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. He is apparently so taken by what he has done with the Oceans 11 movies that he tries to make everything lighthearted and comedic. There was nothing lighthearted or comedic about the men who risked their lives to save the great art of Europe from Nazi plunder and destruction.

Instead of telling the true story, that there were between 300 and 400 men who accomplished this feat, Clooney narrows it down to seven individuals who did everything, which is more than preposterous. Worse, it diminishes the wonderful job these men did. But Clooney plays it for blithe laughs. The scenes where he tries to insert tension are simply tired and pedestrian. Even when one of the seven is killed in a firefight between some GIs and some Nazis, it is treated with such nonchalance that the tragedy of death finds no place in the scene.

As we were exiting the screening my friend and I were discussing how bad the movie was when another critic was walking near us with her friend. She looked at us and asked, ”Was that horrible?” When we agreed, she said, “It was just horrible!” I couldn’t put it better.