Review: The Men Who Stare At Goats DVD

STUDIO: Overture/Anchor Bay | DIRECTOR: Grant Heslov | STARS: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Robert Patrick, Stephen Lang
RELEASE DATE: 3/23/2010 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $39.98
BONUSES: commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes, character bios
SPECS: R | 94 min. | Comedy | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but that’s no guarantee it will be even half as interesting. Consider The Men Who Stare At Goats, directed by Grant Heslov, of which we are told in a tongue-in-cheek title card: “More of this is true than you might believe.” While it features likeable-enough performances from George Clooney (who, let’s face it, is always likeable), Jeff Bridges (ditto), Ewan McGregor, and Kevin Spacey—who brings a genuinely chilly edge to his character’s prissy pretensions—it’s a movie that suffers from an identity crisis.

It purports to tell the true story of one reporter’s investigation of the US military’s forays into the world of psychic spies, or “psy ops.” But it’s difficult to tell from its tone if this film is a satire, a legitimate inquiry into government conspiracy theories, a classic quest narrative as the reporter tries to nail the story of a lifetime and rebuild his marriage, or all—or possibly none—of the above. At about the two-thirds mark, I found myself turning to my viewing companion and saying, “But what is this movie about?” which is never a good sign.

Of more interest are the DVD extras, particularly the featurette on the real-life “men who stare at goats” and the British reporter, Jon Ronson, who collected their tales. (Another puzzle—why hire Ewan McGregor to play a character based on a British writer…and then make the character American? Surely his British accent is better than his flat and forced American one.) Additional extras include a making-of featurette, character bios, commentaries, and deleted scenes.

While this film offers some wonderfully absurdist set pieces—it will be a while before I forget the image of George Clooney staring in furrow-browed concentration at a placid, cud-chewing goat—in the end, as is the case with so many conspiracy theories, it fails to hang together. Worth buying if you’re an obsessive Clooney, Bridges, or Spacey fan. Worth renting if you’re a more casual one. And if McGregor’s your passion, he’s done far better work elsewhere–although it is a kick to hear him, upon learning that the “psy ops” are also referred to as “Jedi warriors,” ask Clooney’s character, “What’s a Jedi warrior?”

 

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About Gwen

Gwen Cooper is a movie and TV lover and the author of Homer's Odyssey (no, not the one you're thinking of).