The Men Who Stare At Goats - Blu-ray Review

'problems start to creep in when Straughan diverts too overtly from Ronson's text, piling director Grant Heslov with more elements than he knows how to handle properly'

Whilst The Men Who Stare At Goats' opening does a good job in pointing out that 'more of this is true than you would believe' what it should actually point out, at least in regard to the opening third, is that 'more of this is lifted directly from the non-fiction book than you would believe'. Overall, this is a very positive thing indeed and the parts of Goats that screenwriter Peter Straughan takes directly from Jon Ronson's book (the hamster conversation, the predator scene, the New Earth Manual) are its funniest and most believable moments.

The problems, however, start to creep in when Straughan diverts too overtly from Ronson's text, piling director Grant Heslov with more elements than he knows how to handle properly. And so, aside from the lead trio of Ewan McGregor, George Clooney and Jeff Bridges we get Kevin Spacey as an under-developed bad guy, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance from Robert Patric as a private security guy and several other Army guys (from Glenn Morshower to Stephen Lang) who don't develop properly or get chance to express their comic potential in a miserly ninety-four minute runtime.

In a packed final third, what this means is that more often that not, conceits are ill-explained or thought out whilst rushed jokes don't register as fully or as often. Its cliched conclusion, which also feels rushed, removes any tangible critique of the American military (present in Ronson's work), disintegrating as it does into a base level farce, a far cry from the well-managed comedy of the earlier moments.

Having said all that though, there's still enough here to recommend Heslov's film, particularly when McGregor and Clooney are forced to own the screen and, therefore, the comedy. Although McGregor's accent may be suspect, he and Clooney are bona fide stars and their likable character's prittle-prattle humour registers on more than one occasion. Early moments of Bridge's madness (which most obviously draws on the aura of The Dude) are also great to watch and melded together with McGregor and Clooney's story to create a dual-narrative which never confuses and ensures variety. Somewhere along the way though, Heslov loses his grip, leaving Clooney staring at Goats and the rest of us staring at what might have been so much better.

Look further...

'all you see is a bunch of jokes focused on McGregor and Star Wars jokes, because get it, he was in the film. Oh the laughter' - Dan The Man's Movie Reviews, 5/10


  1. I felt the greatest weakness to this movie was that the commercials just gave away too much of the great jokes. I imagine if I went back and watched this film 2 or 3 years from now when I've forgotten them, I might just love it a little bit more. Then again, even without those jokes, it was very mundane in execution

  2. I agree with that and I remember talking with you when it came out about the same thing. My problem is that, knowing the book quite well, I do already know a lot of the good setups and jokes. Will probably forever remain a bit of a dissapointment for me I'm afraid.