Stars, Wars and Jedi Mind Tricks
It is one thing to stare at a pencil in the hope of making it move but to stare at goats in an attempt to kill them! It sounds completely far fetched yet the movie "The Men Who Stare at Goats" is based upon a book by journalist Jon Ronson which investigated a New Age Army called the First Earth Battalion. In a way that is mind blowing to think that at one time the US Army explored New Age concepts for ways of waging war with some of what seems daft in the movie actually being based on real things such as "sparkly eyes". But this isn't some serious adaptation of Ronson's novel but a comedy taking the strangeness and having fun with it and it sort of works.
I say sort of works because in a way there are two storylines in "The Men Who Stare at Goats"; one in 2003 when a journalist called Bob Wilton meets Lyn Cassady a former member of a New Age Army and is stunned by what he is told whilst also dealing with being kidnapped in Kuwait. And then there is the flashback story as Lyn tells him all about how the New Age army came to be under the command of Bill Django, how they were trained to use their psychic ability and how when Larry Hopper joined the team things went wrong. Out of the two storylines it is the flashback story which delivers the entertainment, delivers the humour and stuns you whilst the story in the present is a bit of a mess which is a struggle to follow.
So the flashback story is where "The Men Who Stare at Goats" really works and the whole creation of the New Age army with Django spending 6 months with various hippies and new age people to learn their ways is hilarious. And it is just as funny watching soldiers embracing a hippy life style from growing their hair to free dancing and experimenting with drugs to open their mind. It is because it is so daft and delivered in such a dead pan way that it sort of shocks you into laughter.
Unfortunately the story in the present or 2003 is less good because whilst it leads us to Lyn telling Bob all about the New Age army and how they were trained to do thing differently it is a bit of a mess. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere other than to provide the set up for various flashbacks and when it does finally bring everything together you sort of wonder how it got there. Having said that it allows for numerous moments of humour as the use of the word Jedi crops up which of course with Ewan McGregor in the role of Bob adds another level of humour to the movie.
But sadly whilst having McGregor in the cast allows for the Jedi humour to work his performance is pretty much forgettable, well he is the ordinary guy in all this. Instead we have wonderful comedic performances from George Clooney and Jeff Bridges which dominate the movie and it is all about the way they act, the awkward dancing from Clooney, Bridges admiring his platted hair whilst in full military uniform which makes you laugh. In fact whilst there is also Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang and Robert Patrick in the cast it is the humour of Clooney and Bridges which stays with you after "The Men Who Stare at Goats" has finished, well that and the simple fact that it is so daft.
What this all boils down to is that "The Men Who Stare at Goats" is an entertaining movie which is full of memorable daftness. It's not perfect and the storyline in 2003 is not as good as the flashbacks but with so much humour and mentions of Jedi warriors it is seriously worth watching.