Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)
The Monuments Men is the true story of a group of experts dispatched by the Allies to rescue art and cultural monuments from the Nazis during the last year of World War II. It is based on the 2009 book of the same name by Robert Edsel, and the topic it covers is a fascinating little corner of history. Unfortunately, the film takes a great story and makes it boring. Even a stellar cast, including Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, John Goodman, and Bill Murray, can’t save this snooze-fest.
At the beginning, we get the backstory on what’s going on (Nazis are stealing art) through a 1944-era PowerPoint that Clooney’s character, Frank Stokes, is presenting to then-Vice President Truman. This tell-don’t-show type of plot development continues throughout the movie, making it feel like a documentary rather than a narrative. Then Stokes collects his team of misfits, whose names we get (then I, for one, promptly forgot), but precious little else. Apparently Bill Murray and Bob Balaban’s characters dislike each other–but I was never sure why, so the feeble attempts at buddy-comedy scenes fell pretty flat.
Once the team gets to Europe they split up, never to reunite until the very end of the film. With so many characters in so many different places and not a lot of plot-building, I was confused most of the time as to who was doing what where. When a couple of the team members die nobly attempting to save art, I barely noticed. I couldn’t remember their names anyway.
When the good guys are so forgettable, you need a really great bad guy to keep a film afloat. Yeah, I know the Nazis are the bad guys. But while a faceless bureaucracy of bad guys is probably more historically accurate, a good story needs something a little more concrete. Like the head Nazi getting his face melted off in Indiana Jones. Accurate? Probably not. Awesome? Totally.
In sum, The Monuments Men is a documentary trapped in the body of a feature film. If you want to learn about the mission to save art from the Nazis, read the book. If you want a thrilling World War II story, watch Saving Private Ryan.
Located in Adult DVDs (DVD MONUMENTS)