The story of The Monuments Men is inspiring. During World War II, a squadron of older art scholars was dispatched to Europe in an effort to protect art and other precious cultural artifacts from being destroyed by bombs, stolen by the Nazis or swiped by private collectors. It sounds like incredible fodder for a film, especially with George Clooney in front of and behind the camera, and a dream cast that includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Jean Dujardin. Alas, what could have been a weird cross between Inglourious Basterds and Ocean’s Eleven turns out to be a bit of a slog. A beautiful slog, sure, with its glorious images of European architecture, painting and sculpture, but a slog nonetheless. Much of the dullness comes from an episodic story line that requires these great performers to spend most of the film apart, contemplating in voice-over whether art is worth the ultimate sacrifice and pontificating about the righteousness of their cause. The performances are great and the views are stunning, but The Monuments Men still comes off more as a sermon than an entertaining piece of art unto itself.
Critic’s Grade: C+
SEE IT: The Monuments Men is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Mill Plain, Oak Grove, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Lloyd Center, Sherwood, Tigard, Wilsonville, Sandy.