No monument to a great story (★★, Directed by George Clooney)
Hollywood is full of stars who think they deserve two bites at the creativity cherry.
Actors who sing, models who act, singers who front multimillion dollar box office flops, repeatedly – It’s a little greedy.
One group that usually gets a pass though are actors who take up directing.
George Clooney has been a chef in the directorial kitchen since he made the pretty great Confessions of a Dangerous Mind from a Charlie Kaufman script in 2002.
Five films later though, and Clooney’s mediocre The Monuments Men suggests too many Clooneys spoil the broth.
With the credits looking more like some underfunded indie film – starring, written, directed and produced by the same person (George Clooney) – it’s a frustrating muddle of a film, that seems on the cusp of greatness, but never quite makes it.
The story is fantastic – an unlikely group of bumbling professors, city bound architects and beard stroking art historians in the depths of WWII team up and go behind enemy lines to save priceless artifacts of Western culture from the brutal caprice of the Third Reich.
Add to that and awesome cast featuring John Candy, Bill Murray, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon – a who’s who of A List fun – and you should be heating up nicely.
But wait, there’s more! The whacky set-up lends itself to their talents as comedy odd couples bicker, touching friendships are forged and fearless acts of derring-do are done in a race against time to rescue abandoned caches of priceless art from marauding Russians and destructive Germans.
There’s even an attempt at a tentative romance-under-fire between Matt Damon’s dashing art restorer and Cate Blanchett’s fusty-but-feisty museum curator.
But somehow Clooney manages to under-season the dish and serve it stone cold.
Maybe it’s the way The Monument’s Men repeatedly tries to land emotional punches it never earns, leaving you feeling like you’ve missed something crucial?
It’s clear we need to worry about the fate of the Mona Lisa, but why are we asked to cry over Bill Murray’s daughter singing a Christmas carol? The scene pops up so randomly, before we’ve even connected with his louche New York architect.
It’s disconcerting and more than a little disappointing.
Honestly, if you can’t make it work when you have John Candy, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and, yes, George Clooney to work it with, you’re doing something wrong.
The Monuments Men has all the ingredients for greatness, but this is one floppy souffle that won’t be resurrected by Clooney’s sunny smile.