‘The Monuments Men’: The Reviews Are In

Does the all-star cast deliver in the historical art heist film?

The phrase “all-star cast” gets tossed around a lot, but when it comes to “The Monuments Men,” it is more than deserved.

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman are only a few of the names in an incredibly acclaimed cast.

“The Monuments Men,” also directed by Clooney, tells the true story of an American platoon that is sent to rescue great works of art from behind Nazi lines in World World II. Looking to be a blend of “Ocean’s Eleven” (which starred Clooney and Damon) and “Saving Private Ryan,” (which also starred Damon) “The Monuments Men” was announced with a lot of hype, but fell a bit off the radar when some production troubles delayed the film from late 2013 to early 2014.

Clooney’s cast also comes with very high expectations. But is “Monuments” worthy of Van Gogh and Rembrandt, or is it more like watching paint dry? The critics weigh in on the film, which opens Friday (February 7).

Old-Fashioned Entertainment
“Even though there’s some PG-13 violence and bloodshed, and a few chilling reminders of Hitler’s reign of terror and the soul-curdling goals of the Nazis, this is still one of the most old-fashioned and at times almost breezy WWII films in recent memory. This is the kind of movie where a man reacts to a character’s death by saying, ‘That’s a hell of a thing,’ and his brother in arms says, ‘Yep, a hell of a thing,’ and a wounded soldier told he can go home says, ‘If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll stick around.’ ” — Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

Doesn’t Reach Its Potential
“You keep waiting for it to kick into gear, for the odd-couple banter between Bill Murray and Bob Balaban to start clicking. The actors, including Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujuardin, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett as a Parisian curator based on Rose Valland, are present and ready for duty. It’s ‘Ocean’s Eight,’ this time with serious historical import. The script by Clooney and Grant Heslov offers the actors an outline and some functional scenes, mostly two-handers.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The Cast Doesn’t Disappoint
“It’s a kick gawking at stellar actors getting their blood up. Clooney excels as MFAA leader Frank Stokes, a character inspired by George Stout, who was doing art restoration at Harvard’s Fogg Museum when duty called. It’s Stokes who recruits James Granger (Damon), based on James J. Rorimer, who went on to be director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The bantering between Clooney and Damon gives the film a buoyant lift, but the seriousness of their mission is never in doubt.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

A Hard Tone To Nail Down
“As the driving impulse behind the project thus seems to have been to honor the men without whom the legacy of Western art might have been gravely compromised, it may seem rude to suggest that the film would have been better had it backpedaled this sentiment in favor of a rougher, mixed-mood drama with a more arbitrary and surprising attitude toward life and death — or a more insouciant comic drama about some guys just getting the job done. Too much of the time, ‘The Monuments Men’ falls into a compromised middle zone, not urgent and only mildly amusing.” — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Enjoyable, But Plays It Safe
“I emphasize Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov’s speechifying on behalf of their heroes’ mission to suggest why The Monuments Men never quite shakes off its family-friendly squareness. It’s a graceful, engaging film — I enjoyed it. But it could have been called The Tasteful Dozen. After helping to shape such acid, anti-imperialist movies as Syriana and David O. Russell’s Three Kings, Clooney must have been eager to make a hopeful, positive war picture, with a lighthearted marching-drum-and-woodwind score by Alexander Desplat — and an implicit subtext that government funding of the arts is vital to our very existence. But he plays it so safe.” — David Edelstein, New York Magazine