THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS. What an awful movie. I saw it last night. Normally I don’t review films or pass myself off as a critic, but, whoa. What was the problem there?

That’s the hard part.

I don’t know………

Something was the matter, that’s for sure. Do you know? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Was it because I didn’t care about the people? I kinda liked Ewan McGregor, but never thought he ever moved away from the schlub-ness he was saddled with at the start.

George Clooney was sold as The King of this thought-war-stuff, but it took me half the movie to decide that he was really able to do what he said he could… which meant that I was uncertain if Ewan was on a wild goose chase — and was his chasing Clooney and finding he was a fraud the point of the movie? Finally, we buy that George can do what he says, but by then, the story was dead in the water.

George always said he was “on a mission” but we never see him doing anything on purpose… all is random and a bit silly. Then, at the end, he tells Ewan, “The mission is you.” in a gigantic cop out moment.

The Kevin Spacey character is introduced incredibly late. They give him no motivation for disliking George and Jeff Bridges and their program… he just shows up and hates them for no reason and wants to do mean things to them. He is such a weird character, and didn’t have much to do with the plot.

Jeff Bridges is playing a guy a lot like The Dude, which is okay, but he didn’t have much going on. He was just there, being silly. There was a lot of that, silliness… but for no real reason.

I never knew what was going on. Never cared, either.

Upon a lot of reflection and a soapy shower, I think I know what it was that got my legs to start hopping in the theater after fifteen minutes. The simplest thing in all of storytelling, or at least, it’s the first thing they teach you in screenwriting class: what does the character want? I never really had a clue.

Ewan McGregor seems to want to prove himself to his wife, but he doesn’t want anything for HIMSELF. Plus, she’s kind of a loser wife anyway… and the little we know about her makes us want him NOT to be with her… so why is he on this journey anyway? Why were WE on it?

In the end, it was boring. There was no plot. No driving, over-arching action… and I really disliked the movie. It wasn’t really way off the mark, just a little bit off, but all the little bits added up. I wonder if they knew they were in trouble while they were cutting, or did they find out when a paying audience saw it. If you have any thoughts as to why I / you didn’t latch onto a film I really wanted to love… please chime in.



Filed under Criticism, Screenwriting

6 responses to “MEN WHO STARE… AND STARE…

  1. JBC

    …and this is why we all write and hope to one day sell something. We see movies that suck, realize how much the screenwriter(s) were paid and say – “hey! I could do better than that!”

    OBTW – Welcome back, hope your vacation was relaxing.

  2. Brett in Manhattan

    I can deal with a boring film that has no plot, but what ruined it for me was the lead characters names starting with the same letter.

    George Clooney … Lyn Cassady

    Kevin Spacey … Larry Hooper

    Ewan McGregor … Bob Wilton

    Jeff Bridges … Bill Django

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Yes! You are so right! RUINED the film. How can you keep Bob and Bill straight!??


      • Brett in Manhattan

        Ironically, after reading your book, I remembered that in one of my earlier efforts I had leads named “Jill” and “Jimmy.”

        I’ve since gone back and replaced “Jimmy” with “Tommy.”

        You’re having an impact, dude. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  3. Excellent!!!
    Good news.

    I just got done critiquing a script and he had three sets of character names that started with the same letters.

    You got 26 letters in the alphabet, why not spread the love around!?

  4. Marti

    I hated this film too. My reasoning was I felt completely cheated throughout the entire movie!

    I get that Bob was trying to get back his wife, but…why? She cheated on him! With his boss! And then, like you said we spend so much time thinking George Clooney is crazy (and I still think he is) everything is weird. I agree about the Kevin Spacey character. Much too late. Was is jealousy that drove him? If yes, why would he recruit George later in the story?

    I think part of the problem could have been resolved if Bob would have LEARNED something other than dump LSD into a water supply. I think if he had walked away with a chick (since he originally went on this journey for his cheating wife) it may have given more closure. Of course, the ending tries to sum everything up with what he did learn, but by that time, did it matter?

    I felt like it was a frat boy film that was made by people with an obvious affection for illegal substances. (By frat boy, I don’t mean the extremely educated frat boys that attend your wonderful class).

    My fifteen year old even hated it. His question: Why would a wimpy guy all of a sudden be able to run through a wall when a general couldn’t? A general who had been trained in all that nonsense.

    And HELLO! It was ONE man and ONE goat!

    I agree with you, Will. Thanks for the review!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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