Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Monuments Men

In the flat and turgid "The Monuments Men," George Clooney turns WWII into a painted set, a mere backdrop for a series of vapid speeches (by him, natch) about art as the cornerstone of civilization, the thing we were fighting for most.

He also allots himself some choice words for a captured - and conveniently silent - Nazi soldier. Yet, for all the highfalutin talk about capital-A Art, Clooney only focuses on a few pieces - and not in any detail - which then happen to be lying around in plain sight wherever he and his crew (Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban) traipse off to next. 

The unintentional laughs keep coming. They look at a map and select their next city - sometimes half a continent away - and suddenly they're there as if it were around the block. Goodman and Dujardin fly in a little turboprop and Goodman, pointing down at a replica Eiffel Tower, informs Dujardin, "Paris!" Cate Blanchett pops in intermittently, with the following basic message for Damon: It's great that you have a family back home, but this is Paris, and I can be on my knees before you finish snapping your fingers. (Who wouldn't?) She also gives him a notebook in which she's catalogued every piece of art that passed through her SS commandant's office, with red and blue dots that he just happens to find on the first artworks he later comes across in an imploded salt mine. And I especially loved the scene in which they comb through the embers of an intentionally set fire and find only a frame reading "Pablo Picasso."

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