Disappointing ‘Monuments Men’ fails to spark interest

There are few things more frustrating than cooking up a sub-par soup when all the ingredients to make a tasty meal are right there in your grasp. Apply that to movies, and that basically describes “The Monuments Men.”

You have an all-star cast including award-winning actors such as George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and Jean Dujardin, a very capable director (also Clooney), a period in history that people think they know, but is layered with a story of intriguing principles; the list goes on.

From the way the film is described, it sounds like a home run, yet Clooney still finds a way to keep it from being a crowd pleaser. He tries — the rousing music and speech after speech of how important art is are indications of that for sure. Yet, heart and soul are nowhere to be found — only good intentions.

“The Monuments Men” can be best described as “Ocean’s Eleven” meets “Saving Private Ryan,” with all the fun of the former sucked out of it and all the drama of the latter entirely forgotten. We follow Frank Stokes (Clooney), a professor of art who gathers a team of cultured people in all areas of the field to pursue one of the lesser-known missions during World War II.

The mission: take back the stolen art pieces that Hitler has taken from around the world and give them back to their rightful owners. Seem like a silly mission? Well, Clooney does all he can to convince you that what they are doing is worth it. Even if that includes giving you a speech every 20 minutes about the importance of art and what it means to our culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all forms of art and agree with the ideologies being thrown in here, but it becomes tiring to hear over and over again.

I would go into detail on the rest of the crew that made up “The Monuments Men,” but I’d be struggling to find things to say, seeing as Clooney blew right past all the important character backgrounds and developments I would have liked to see.

It’s pretty disappointing when a cast includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman, yet I am unable to recall anything note-worthy about them as people. When viewing a heist-type film, one of the more enjoyable parts is seeing all the different characters come together and be able to root for them as individuals, as well as a unit.

I never got the sense that any of these “troops” had an appealing dynamic. They were just thrown into a room and told to read lines without actual chemistry.

The best I can say about “The Monuments Men” is that the look of it is pretty wonderful. I loved the set designs, costumes and sometimes even the musical score. Even if the script, actors or direction didn’t allow for humor or drama, at least the design was a beauty to look at and felt real to anyone watching it.

The problem with the cast is their acting. Everybody gives a good performance in their own sort of way, but it becomes a problem when the good performances in the room don’t come together when the feel is supposed to be that of a band of brothers.

The tagline of the movie reads, “It was the greatest art heist in history.” That may be true, but the movie does a poor job in reflecting that. It does have its occasional bright spots and a few well-done scenes, but they don’t come often enough to merit a full on recommendation to visit the theater, or even to rent a full-priced copy.

Despite all the talent in front of and behind the camera, this lukewarm war story will likely disappoint.