'The Monuments Men' not monumental but not bad

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Monuments Men Damon Character

This undated publicity photo provided by Sony Pictures Publicity shows actors Matt Damon and Kate Blanchett in a scene from the Columbia Pictures film "The Monuments Men." Damon portrays James Rorimer who was one of a group of men tasked with saving works of art during World War II. (AP Photo/Sony Pictures Publicity)

CLAUDETTE BARIUS — AP

Toward the end of World War II, 300 people from 13-nations were involved in a quest to rescue stolen art treasures from the Nazis and Adolph Hitler. Writer/director George Clooney's flick has a group of solders criss-crossing Europe in the final months of the war tracking down treasures. They are mostly fictional characters summing up what was done by the real heroes.

Frank Stokes is done by Clooney, and he's the leader of the group. Like Matt Damon's James Granger, he's a real person. An asterisk has to go here because Stokes is actually based on Frank Stout. The other characters done by Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville appear to be made up. Or not. Researching the real names got to be more time consuming than the movie is worth.

The Monuments Men is co-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov. Both co-wrote the also Clooney directed The Ides of March and the critically acclaimed Good Night, and Good Luck. The acting is -- as expected -- terrific. Clooney is always good as is Damon, an always remarkable Blanchett, the impossible not to love Goodman and the others.

The flaw is a chunky story and screenplay that sometimes lacks continuity. It's almost like Clooney and Heslov felt their first cut was too long and removed peripheral story lines and scenes that connect to pieces left in the final version.

The story is mostly a drama but -- as with most action, buddy war-movie flicks -- it has moments of good humor. Like the missing pieces, the camaraderie and fun sometimes doesn't connect and is more forced than natural.

There's enough to like to recommend the movie. However, in the end The Monuments Men leaves you with two choices. The movie needs more length because there is more to the story. Or the story -- important as it is -- isn't really movie material.

Director: George Clooney

Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, language. It's playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

-- Is Mr. Movie's take on movies monumentally flawed? Let him know at www.tri-cityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.

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