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'The Monuments Men' disappoints with lackluster performance and story

By Kim Halpin
On February 10, 2014

With a cast as chock full as "The Monuments Men," and a subject matter so innately intriguing as stolen art in World War II, moviegoers would expect nothing less than a stellar experience. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
In the opening scenes of the movie, you can't help but feel like you might be watching a fourth "Ocean's Eleven" installment. George Clooney is tasked with completing a nearly impossible feat and assembles a team with Matt Damon one by one to complete it. And while they're not in the world of Las Vegas Casinos, he is stealing (or stealing back), millions upon millions, just in the form of precious art.
Most of the movie also leaves you unsatisfied because it seems like the group of seven is not actually doing anything. Clooney's character sends a pair to a ravaged city to see what they could find. Were they honestly expecting to search the entire city by themselves? And if they found anything, how were the two of them expecting to do anything about it?
Another frustrating scene was watching Huge Boneville attempt to save the Modona and Child sculpture inside a church. As a lone soldier, he takes one shot at a Nazi officer who's stealing the sculpture. His quest to save the art was heroic, but it's hard to watch a so obviously hopeless situation.
There are poignant moments in the film that make the audience reflect on the atrocities committed by the Nazis, such as stealing nearly all property held by Jews, especially valuable private art collections. The vastness of the stolen property is astounding, as are the razed European landscape and the deaths of soldiers that hit close to home. However, these moments came too few and far between to establish the right tone.
One thing that this movie was good for was deep poetic speeches. George Clooney has mastered the art of heartfelt and profound speeches, and when projected via a 1940s radio transmitter, the classic vintage sound fit well within the movie. However, the movie opened with a weighty speech, had one in the middle and then ended with another. There is only one word for that: overkill.
I was however, pleasantly surprised by Bill Murray's and John Goodman's performances. It was difficult to see how these typically comical actors could pull off such a serious and historic film, but they did so seamlessly. Murray's soulful character really shined through as he listened to a recording of his family back home. I was glad to see a different side of both men that can't normally come through in their typical genre.
Unfortunately, Damon's character was in a completely isolated plot line for a good portion of film. When they all came together, though, the team chemistry was at the very least, entertaining.
If you're on the fence about going to see "The Monuments Men," my recommendation is to wait for it to come to Red Box or Netflix.

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