Every war deserves a decent satirical kicking.
The Men Who Stare At Goats, Jon Ronson’s exposé of how insane fringe experiments into the paranormal paved the way for Abu Ghraib, had potential to become cinema’s defining comedic assault on the War On Terror. Alas, after the laser-sighted precision of In The Loop, Grant Heslov’s film seems all the more scattershot.
The movie weaves Ronson’s myriad madness into an ungainly conspiracy, revealed by ‘Jedi warrior’ Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) to incredulous journo Bob Wilton (nerdy Ewan McGregor, a galaxy away from Obi-Wan).
In the ’80s, Cassady learned benign mindcontrol techniques from hippy-dippy spiritualist Bill Django ( Jeff Bridges), until sociopathic spoonbender Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) corrupted the programme with psychic goat slayings.
Despite his tongue-in-cheek approach, Ronson’s conclusions were deadly serious. The film sees only silliness – but even as farce, it’s hampered by the decision to fudge whether Cassady’s powers actually exist.
The framing device (a road trip to Iraq) proves uneventful, with the author’s juiciest anecdotes reserved for the movie’s copious flashbacks. It’s here that Heslov really kicks loose, unleashing a barrage of slapstick sketches that inevitably echo the Coen brothers: co-producer Clooney resurrects his bugeyed ‘Dapper Dan Man’ routine, while man-of-the-match Bridges’ tripped-out euphoria proves that the Dude still abides.
Frickin’ A, man…
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