We all thought that Ewan McGregor was done with Jedis. He’s spent his time as Obi-Wan, and has since moved on to a myriad of other cinematic pastures – or so we thought. Now he’s back in a new Jedi film, but this isn’t from the mind of George Lucas, and these warriors don’t use light sabers to fight. They use their minds. Read on to learn about “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”
Goats centers on Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a local reporter in Ann Arbor whose life falls apart when his wife leaves him for a dumpy, one-armed man. To get his life back on track, he comes up with a grandiose plan: He will head to Iraq, cover the war, become a renowned journalist, and win his wife back. Piece of cake. Quite quickly, however, he realizes that he can’t just jump into war correspondence with ease, and finds himself the odd man out in a foreign land – until he runs into Lyn Cassady (George Clooney).
This name is not new to Wilton. Before heading overseas, he had interviewed a crazy local man who claimed that he was once a psychic spy for the government. In the midst of his tall tales, he’d talked about one special psychic named Lyn Cassady, and after a rather shaky introduction, Bob finds out that this is, indeed, the same man. But Lyn is no regular psychic spy. He is a re-activated Jedi warrior who served in the New Earth Battalion – an Army unit created and trained by hippie military man Lieutenant Colonel Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) back in the ’80s until the ambitious Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) destroyed it all with his greed.
After spying a doodle in Bob’s notebook, Lyn decides to take him along for the ride, slowly unveiling the secrets of his Jedi ways. And while he does display a rather impressive ability to make clouds burst, Lyn’s talents seem fleeting at best as the journey plagues them with cooking mishaps, accidents, kidnapping, psycho businessman, gun fire, and dehydration in the desert. For a guy with such a renowned command of the mind, Lyn attracts a lot of bad luck.
For most of the film, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” plays out like a slapstick betting match where each piece of ridiculousness gets topped by the next. And, as one would imagine, that means the ending can never quite live up to the journey it takes to get there. How can one even begin to end a story about psychic, real-life Jedis? It seems like no one knows, especially once the film’s inspirational score slips in and rests like a large hip pack – it might be handy to wrap things up, but doesn’t quite fit right, and doesn’t quite look right. But that is the downfall of many of these comedies and luckily “Goats” is saved by an epilogue that throws out the silly score, throws on the devilish Jedi smile, and belts out Boston with abandon.
While not a perfect film, one thing’s for certain: We can expect a great future for Grant Heslov and George Clooney collaborations. They wrote “Good Night, and Good Luck” together for Clooney to direct, and now “The Men Who Stare at Goats” brings Clooney back in front of the screen as Heslov helms his first major feature. I can’t begin to imagine what will come next, but after a manic comedy that starts with a series of war footage set to Supergrass’ “Alright” … I can’t wait.