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FILM FANS: 'Monuments Men' has its issues

EDITOR’S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the movie of the week: “The Monuments Men.” Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

3 out of 4 stars

I know, I saw it on Rotten Tomatoes days before I saw the movie. It has not gotten rave reviews. However, I enjoyed it. “The Monuments Men” gets caught between what it is and what it is not. It is not an action movie per se, a romance, a thriller or a biography. It is, however, a riveting story told that I’ve never heard before.

The flick boasts the star-studded cast of Matt Damon, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman and Bill Murray, just to quickly rattle off a few familiar names. The story unfolds during World War II with the organized efforts of Hitler’s regime to confiscate and transport some estimate about 5 million cultural artifacts to be displayed in a museum Hitler had envisioned. If Hitler were to die before the museum came into existence, all of the stolen works of art were to be destroyed by the German army.

Based on the book of the same title by Robert Edsel and contributor Bret Witter, the cast represents museum directors and curators, artists and architects tasked to return what was stolen back to the country it was from originally.

If you appreciate art, I especially recommend seeing this movie.

— Cathryn Veal, Lawrenceville

2 out of 4 stars

“The Monuments Men” is the fifth feature film George Clooney has directed. He also co-wrote the screenplay and starred in the film alongside Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and Jean Dujardin to name a few.

The acting was good, but not even close to their best works, considering their track records. The film was a bit bland and in the comedic parts, the humor fell short. The plot is far from coherent and strives to be thought provoking and funny, but seems forced at times. The film was filled to the brim with events and overflowing that I never had a chance to clearly understand what was at stake for the characters. It would have been a decent film if the narrative was more cohesive, the characters more developed and the tone more consistent. This story seems better suited for a book or documentary. This film was probably more fun to make than it was to watch. I expected more from this film considering it had what I thought to be a very interesting subject matter and a superb cast.

— Isaiah Motz, Lawrenceville

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

“The Monuments Men” is directed, co-written and stars George Clooney, who has assembled a top-notch cast, including Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Cate Blanchett. The trailer for “The Monuments Men” was somewhat misleading, making the film seem like a madcap road movie. Instead, this is a story based on true events that is part action-adventure, part tearjerker and part history lesson.

With so many plot lines, most of these actors have less than twenty minutes of total screen time. Clooney’s portrayal of Frank Stokes, the leader of these men, comes across as bland and flat. Blanchett, however, gives a stand-out performance, as does Jean Dujardin (from 2011’s “The Artist”). There is a very poignant moment involving Murray’s character and a rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in the middle of the movie.

I wish “The Monuments Men” had elicited more of a reaction within myself and among the audience in the theatre — there were few laughs or audible gasps. Perhaps Clooney could have given us a little less of a history lesson and pumped up the action adventure a bit more. This is a good movie that could have been a great one.

— Paul Tate, Sugar Hill

2 1/2 stars

“The Monuments Men” is based on the true story of the U.S. Army’s quest to rescue stolen antiquities and historical treasures from the Nazis during the waning months of World War II.

Lt. Frank Stokes (George Clooney) leads a team of civilian architects, curators and historians as they follow the tracks of the Allied assault on occupied Europe, searching for clues that will lead them to the missing masterpieces, which range from Renaissance paintings and sculptures to religious icons and books. Often working in teams, and sometimes flying solo, they are often successful in tracking down caches of purloined works, only to be hot on the trail of the next big find. They have to overcome resistance from their own troops and enlist the aid of civilians such as Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), a Parisian curator working for the Nazis but who also is secretly aiding the Resistance.

Toward the end of the movie, it’s a race against time as the team tries to save the treasures from the retreating Germans (who decide to literally apply a scorched-earth policy toward their loot) and the advancing Russians, who also covet these relics as war reparations for Stalin.

The movie itself is somewhat entertaining but too long. Team members, played by John Goodman, Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bill Murray, are largely wasted due to mediocre scripting. There are a few chuckles here and there, as well as some poignant moments as the story unfolds. The touching side story of the love interest between Cate Blanchett’s character and Matt Damon’s is sweet, but it’s an unnecessary plot device that makes the film drag at times.

Overall, “The Monuments Men” is a decent enough film that brings to light an important facet of war and its effects not only on soldiers and civilians, but also on the value of preserving culture.

— Tim Weekley, Suwanee