I think the real draw of social networking is it lets us pretend to beway cooler than we really are.
On the Internet, it's all shirtless parties; in the dreary analogworld, I'm slumped on my couch with Cheez-It crumbs littering my fivechest hairs as I agonize whether my fantasy football team can riskstarting Steve Slaton when one more fumble will have him riding thePine Express.
On Twitter, we're fonts of 140-character wit; speak tome in person and you'll get back a Simpsons quote or afive-second pause followed by "That's cool."
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So I say bring on the updates about what you had for breakfast! Letloose those 12,000-word whines about working retail! The real-life youwill be fascinating by comparison. And if you're advertising a movieinstead of yourself, why not make it look awful? A first-rate campaignfor a second-rate product only leads to disappointment. Like itssecond Iraq War setting, The Men Who Stare at Goats sounded alot more fun than it turned out to be.
After his wife leaves him, small-time journalist Ewan McGregor headsto Iraq to try to be a war correspondent, believing this will provehe's not a milquetoast loser. As he waits at the Kuwaiti border, heruns into George Clooney -- and a much better story than the one he wasseeking.
On their journey into Iraq, he learns Clooney is the star soldier inProject Jedi, a long-defunct military program to develop psychicwarriors. In the midst of the second Gulf War, Clooney's beenreactivated for a secret mission.
The Men Who Stare at Goats has all the ingredients forsomething special: a bizarre fact-based story; a spectacular cast,including program leader Jeff Bridges in a role that could be the NewAge cousin to his iconic dropout in The Big Lebowski; and thehallmark of all timeless art -- rooms full of fainting goats. The onlything that could promise more awe would be if they rode intobattle on the backs of neon-striped T-Rexes.
And for a while, director Grant Heslov looks like he may make thatpromise pay off, jogging through the first act with some big laughsand lots of mystery around the big question: Considering they're onlylike a quarter our size, is beating up a kid really as much of a crimeas beating up an adult?
No wait, that's my screenplay, and don't steal my ideas.Goats is more about that whole "Are psychic powers real?" thing.
It should be, anyway. For a journalist, McGregor doesn't seem all thatinterested in whether all this psychic business genuinely truly worksor was all just a wonky Cold War scheme. Meanwhile, the further PeterStraughan's script descends into McGregor and Clooney's episodicadventure and the details of Project Jedi, the harder it dances aroundthe issue of whether the Jedi are supermen with mind-sabers or just abunch of kooks with creepy stares.
Then again, none of it's all that focused. Goats is based on abook and seems to suffer from a lingering case of badadaptionitis.While the oddball characters have a lot of life in them (aided by thatrad cast), the flashbacks to the Project are a bunch of nakedexposition (don't be tricked, for once the word "naked" is a badthing) and everything that's happening to them in Iraq could becatalogued with the label "incidental things designed to kill timeuntil we finally get around to the relevant parts, i.e. the last 10minutes."
If there was any significance to all this, it was lost in thetranslation; for all its hints of something bigger, the story nevermanifests anything more than a lot of strange people doing things anysane person would consider crazy but maybe they're not crazy becausemaybe they were on to something after all!
Who knows. The Men Who Stare at Goats is a fast car with noidea why it's on the road.