Despite an immensely likable cast, “The Monuments Men” sinks faster than a rock tossed into the ocean from the beaches of Normandy. Based on true events, this George Clooney-directed adventure is about the men tasked with finding and saving great works of art in the waning days of the Nazi regime. Hitler and his cronies stole the art from collectors as Germany marched across Europe and into such cultural centers as Paris, Florence and Amsterdam. Now, that the German forces were on the run, Hitler has ordered all the art works to be destroyed should he be killed or Germany fall.
“The Monuments Men” is such an odd film. It’s written as if it wants to be a modern-day version of 1970’s “Kelly’s Heroes.” At times, Clooney’s film seems to be going for the laughs. But, then the laughs never materialize. The casting is very strange. Why John Goodman and the baggage he brings to the role? I also can’t figure why Bill Murray was in the cast. If this was “Kelly’s Heroes” Murray would be Oddball, the role played by Donald Sutherland. But, there’s nary a “woof, woof” to be heard. Murray just stands around with a dumb look on his face, and is never allowed to be himself. Matt Damon plays the romantic lead, if there is one. He courts (sorta, kinda) a beautiful French curator (Cate Blanchett) in Paris. He wants her cooperation, but she thinks the Americans are just out to steal the artworks for their stateside museums instead of returning the missing property to its rightful owners.
The screenplay is childlike and overly reverential. It’s almost as if Clooney is afraid he’s going to insult someone by getting a few laughs out of a serious subject. And, you can’t convince me that Clooney wasn’t thinking of “Kelly’s Heroes” as he made this film. There’s even a scene at the end that duplicates the “Kilroy was here” ending of the Clint Eastwood film. He definitely had this comedy in mind, but “The Monuments Men” is very unfunny, decidedly so. Grade: C-