.The Monuments Men

ART’S IN THE RIGHT PLACE: George Clooney directs and stars in this true tale of a military team tasked with reclaiming priceless artworks from the Nazis.

What can be said about this film is what is said in it, re: a painting by Hitler: it’s not bad, but it’s not good. The Monuments Men tells a noble story of World War II, previously told in the vastly superior documentary The Rape of Europa. (And that documentary didn’t go in for Commie-bashing, pointing out how there were Soviet art-warriors protecting the treasures of the Hermitage by spiriting them off to Siberia.)

Hitler aimed to celebrate the triumph of his Reich with his tomb, the Fuhrer Museum, a hulking marble nightmare containing all of the art he looted. We see a plaster model of the horror-museum, but maybe this is where CGI could have shown it to us—the sight of the uniformed SS, crowing over the masterpieces, might have given us a better sense of what was at stake.

And The Monuments Men, about the U.S. military squad seeking what the Nazis stole, frets terribly about what’s at stake. Someone really got hung up on the question of whether or not it was worth risking the lives of our boys to save a work of art. Most viewers are willing to follow director/star George Clooney into hell and back, but he has to keep explaining what the purpose of the mission is—first to FDR, then to an Army major, then, when the mess is over, Harry Truman (Christian Rodska). It’s as if the producers were worried that once the concept of a masterpiece of European art had been explained, they felt someone in the audience would ask, “Where’s Europe?”

Thank God for Bill Murray, the only person over 50 not hated by anyone under 50, protected from all harm by a bubble of bemusement, wearing an ascot with his olive-drab uniform and a helmet with his bathrobe. Hark to a dreadfully written romance between the scholar (Cate Blanchett) who saved the Jeu de Paume museum’s trove and Matt Damon as a Metropolitan Museum scholar with execrable French. It’s a floppy, centerless movie, understated to the point of occasional sleepwalk. The service comedy (emphasized by Alexandre Desplat’s goofy marches) gets baffling in the face of Nazi menace, and Hitler’s threat to take it all with him like King Sardanapalus. Clooney may be our Cary Grant, but this is his I Was a Male War Bride.

The Monuments Men

PG-13; 118 min.


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