Thursday, February 20, 2014


Rated: PG-13

STARS:  George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville 
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
GENRE: Action/Drama/Suspense

The Monuments Men--more than any other film in recent memory--demonstrates how a highly manipulative music score can turn what otherwise might have been a rather pedantic lesson about the value of art in our lives into a jaunty, and at times even a rousing "caissons-go-rolling-along" bit of mildly entertaining diversion. That's all thanks to the inventive soundtrack from Alexandre Desplat (Zero Dark Thirty, Rust and Bone, Argo) which hits all the right notes. And I say "highly manipulative," but every film score plays upon our emotions to some degree. That's what it's there for.

 Near the end of World War II, FDR assembled a team of experts--historians, architects, sculptors, art dealers and the like--and turned them into soldiers. Of sorts. And off they went to recover art treasures ripped-off by the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners before Hitler can get it all up on the walls of his Fuhrer Museum or destroy whatever he doesn't like. (You can see why he would have an interest...Hitler was an artist of some minor talent himself, and you can envision the museum's walls...a Rembrandt next to a Hitler next to a Cezanne next to a Hitler and so on...flattering himself by the company he keeps). 

The Monuments Men is an action/drama flick with more human drama than action, because the plot is one that appeals more to the art house patron (pardon the pun) than your typical moviegoer--whose appreciation of art runs more to velvet Elvis paintings than anything you would find in the Louvre. So our band of merry men on the road gets detoured into lots of familiar movie territory before they can declare "mission accomplished."  (Don't say it--ha ha.) There is a flirtation between Matt Damon's character and Claire Simone, (Cate Blanchett) a curator in occupied Paris.  The outcome is predictable because our men are totally intent upon their objective. Another time filler is when Damon finds himself standing on a land mine and doesn't dare move, while his comrades scratch their heads and try to extricate him from his predicament in one piece.

In the stellar ensemble cast, the comedic talents of Bill Murray and John Goodman aren't totally wasted, as they do have one rather amusing little scene together. And while The Monuments Men tries way too hard to be poignant in spots, at other times it succeeds. 

But the real star of the movie is Andre Desplat. 

Grade:  B


It's just lucky for you, Tim, that I'm not an SS officer. Otherwise, you'd be toast. Why? For daring to disagree with me so totally about a movie! For me, the musical score's manipulation was the ruination of this long, really long film. It detracted from what was happening on screen, forcing the viewer to feel what the director wanted—no insisted—that the audience feel. Achtung! Sieg heil!

We've seen zillions of band-of-brothers movies like this one. Where a group of guys, usually very different from one another, have a common goal: winning a war, surviving a plane crash, etc. Or, in this case, saving some great works of art. That's all well and good but, in my view, what makes these movies succeed or fail is simple: character development. I'm sure, when casting THE MONUMENTS MEN, the producers were licking their fiscally fat lips, thinking how much money this international cast would add to their coffers. Two actors that Tim didn't mention: Jean Dujardin from The Artist and Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey. But their individual stories were practically nonexistent and audiences care more about people than paintings. Suffice it to say, I was not as enchanted as Tim by this musically heavy-handed piece of cinema. I do, however, have to give four stars to Cate Blanchett for a muted but magnificent performance. Other than that? I'm thinking of taking my 5cm leichte Granatwerfer 36 out of mothballs so I can gun you down, Timoteo!

Grade: C -