This is a pretty interesting trailer for a number of reasons, but let’s start with the title, which is awful no matter how clever the book on which it’s based is: “The Men Who Stare At Goats.”
It’s not particularly funny, and it comes off as the sort of terrible, indie-movie title I would typically disregard — a title unbefitting of such great, big-name actors such as George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. It sounds like a little movie, like a little chamber drama without great ambitions. It’s a pretty ballsy movie though, particularly in this economic and political climate.
It’s based on a nonfiction book by Brit journo Jon Ronson that chronicled the U.S. military’s post-Vietnam interest in paranormal and psychological warfare. Much of what he wrote about is so bizarre, it’s hard to believe. After I watched the trailer, I spent several minutes Googling his purported facts, but people seem to have taken the book quite seriously. The title refers to a particular secret program in which the military believed some “Jedi” soldiers might be able to stop goats’ hearts simply by staring at them intently.
If this is true, that’s hilarious. If it’s not, I’m not surprised.
Director Grant Heslov decided to take the book and make it a satire (though I’m sure it was quite funny on its own). I’m intrigued by the idea, but it’s not something I immediately want to see. If the critical community goes, “This shit’s a masterpiece,” I’ll check it out. Otherwise, I anticipate its DVD release, and that’s a problem for Overture Films, a very new, chancy studio that hasn’t had a pantload of success. (“Traitor,” starring Don Cheadle, was probably their biggest movie.) Because I can’t think who this movie would be for if it isn’t for me. Overture focuses on niche movies, but I don’t quite know what “niche” this would serve other than “broad cinephiles” and “die-hard Clooney fans.” Maybe “fans of military comedies,” but, last I checked, “Tropic Thunder” had disappointing returns (though it wasn’t a failure either).
Unfortunately, “Goats” doesn’t have Danny McBride.
The trailer seems to hit the same comical note over and over: Look at how stupid the military was! They thought they could walk through walls! They thought they could see the future! What rubes!
I’m not sure I want to see two hours of that. What’s the story?
At the same time, I’m a huge fan of Heslov’s filmmaking. Most of you probably don’t know who he is. You’ve probably seen him act, however. This is Grant Heslov in “True Lies”:
As an actor, he’s completely forgettable. But a few years ago, I saw “Good Night, and Good Luck,” which I think is probably the second-best journalism movie ever made, and I saw Heslov co-wrote it with Clooney. As it turned out, they’re producing partners and run Smokehouse Pictures, which basically only produces George Clooney movies. Sweet!
So, making movies is very clearly what Heslov should be doing. “Good Night’s” script proves that much. That movie was a damned masterpiece (which Clooney directed).
But, as far as “Men Who Stare At Goats” is concerned, I’m not on-board yet.