Whenever people watch a book-to-movie adaptation, one of the first things they’ll say after seeing the film is “the book was better.” And after having watched The Monuments Men, you’ll find nothing remarkable about the movie. The fact that it’s based on a true story gives it some merit, but it’s a concept best left on paper and not adapted to the screen. George Clooney co-writes, stars, and directs a very slow-going, anti-climactic film that wants to make you feel something, but ultimately doesn’t succeed in the slightest.

In 1943, the German army is rounding up every piece of artistic history across Europe. Paintings, sculptures, and the like are being stolen and hidden in order to eventually be presented in the Fuhrer Museum in honor of Hitler. This doesn’t sit well with art historian Frank Stokes (George Clooney), who convinces President Roosevelt to let him put together a small task force in order to find and give back the stolen artwork before it’s destroyed in the war.

So Stokes rounds up architects and art professionals (Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, and Dimitri Leonidas) and has them officially enlist in the military with special assignment to search for and obtain all the art, with a lot of help from Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett).

The trouble with The Monuments Men is not the actual story, but the execution of the story. To begin with, the trailers give a lot of things away. There is some humor in the film, but the film’s technically a drama, even though it’s not quite clear if it’s supposed to be taken that way. It feels like not even Clooney knows what to make of his own film.

The movie starts off slow in hopes that it will eventually pick up its pace, but it never does. The audience is then left out in the cold and mildy bored wondering how the movie is supposed to make them feel. It grasps at straws, veering one way, then another, almost directionless in terms of character and tone, except for the end goal, which the film at least gets to. While watching, you know it’s all supposed to make you feel something, but it’s too dull, lacks any kind of momentum, and is painstakingly slow that any kind of endearment for the story and characters flies right out the window in the first twenty minutes.

The film’s plot is simple enough, but it’s Clooney’s treatment of the scenes and characters that really make it hard to sit through. Many of the scenes seem to come and go abruptly and remain stagnant, never giving us much in way of anything heartfelt, even though it tries really hard to be sentimental at several points.

None of the characters are memorable or worthwhile enough to care about, even if the film boasts a fantastic cast. Most of the time, they’re not really doing much of anything and the camaraderie is not there since most of them don’t spend any significant time together, individually going off to do what is tasked to them without a lot of interaction with the group. Outside the characters, the film just lacks in many areas that might have made it more worthwhile rather than dreadfully boring.

Clooney obviously sets out to make a great film but misfires, even if his heart’s in the right place. And while the film’s task sounds noble (as is Clooney’s attempt to make this movie grander than it actually is), the movie is all over the place, boring, anti-climactic, and sometimes random in ways it shouldn’t be. While the idea is a good one, the movie is something that’s better left in the pages of the book.

2star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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