George Clooney is in comic mode as a not-so-normal special forces agent. (Overture Films)
George Clooney is a fun guy. Sure he makes serious movies -- "Michael Clayton," the upcoming "Up in the Air" -- but he also seems to understand the value of a good laugh.
"The Men Who Stare at Goats" is a good laugh.
Yeah, there's a healthy amount of inept government conspiracy mumbo-jumbo going on, but mostly it's a boy's-club psychic brouhaha meant to entertain. Think "Ocean's Eleven" meets "The X-Files."
Ewan McGregor stars as Bob Wilton, a reporter for a paper in Ann Arbor who, after his wife dumps him, decides to strike out for the big time. So he goes to the Middle East, planning on being a war correspondent. But then he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney), and the tale Cassady spins may turn out to be the story of a lifetime. It seems Cassady was part of a secret military unit training to use paranormal gifts under soldier-turned-hippie Bill Django (Jeff Bridges).
After spending years trying to levitate and walk through walls, Cassady and Django were essentially drummed out of the military psychic business by the despicable poser Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey). But now, Cassady has been called back to duty and he's on a secret mission in Iraq. Bob's invited to come along.
Which leads to much Jedi-warrior babble and many questions as to whether Lyn Cassady is for real. Is he really breaking up that cloud with his mind, or is it just dissipating on its own? Can he control the thoughts of others, is he able to make things move without touching them and, most importantly, can he really kill with his mind?
This is grizzled, wild-eyed Clooney, not the suave sophisticate, and it's a nice change of pace. It's also a blast watching Bridges go through his hippie-dippy moves, and the suddenly revived Stephen Lang has some absolutely golden moments as a general who really, really wants to believe.
Directed by Clooney chum Grant Heslov with a fine sense of overboard comic urgency, "The Men Who Stare at Goats" won't win Clooney an Oscar, but it should win him a lot of friends. And, really, that's what counts in Hollywood and elsewhere.