George Clooney, Ewen McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, Stephen Lang...THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS has an one of the best cast lineups of any 2009 film (a year in which a lot of good actors made a lot of good movies). The film is based around a supposedly true plot: "psychic warriors" trained to fight terrorists, led by a hippie soldier, attacked by an arrogant Army officer, and infiltrated by a bored investigative reporter and a former psychic soldier. It makes for a great story, and overall, GOATS succeeds brilliantly; it is a delightful, at times dark film (the last 20 minutes or so get so dark, you'll wish the whole film had been this gutsy) that proposes a lot of questions, and doesn't bother answering them (like any good satire should).
However, something's lacking. Peter Straughan's script isn't up to par; and Grant Heslov's directing seems at times undecided. The acting is fine--Clooney is understated; Bridges is himself; Spacey is delightfully off-kilter; and watching McGregor deadpan the question "What's a Jedi?" is just good geeky fun--but the film itself doesn't live up to the cast's combined talents. The end result is a film that's certainly an enjoyable watch, even laugh-out-loud funny in spots (though it's overall a subtle comedy; this isn't slapstick, it's satire), but doesn't have the lasting effect something with this weight should. The ending is ultimately a let-down; a lot of build up for very little. That's not to say the movie isn't worth your time; if you enjoy intellectual comedies, you'll definitely want to check it out. However, unlike others of the genre--DR. STRANGELOVE comes to mind, though it's probably unfair to compare any war satire to Kubrick's masterpiece--THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS doesn't stay with you once you're done watching. And that is a damn shame, because a film with this great a cast, and this interesting a premise, deserves--almost necessitates--a lasting presence. As is, we have an enjoyable intelligent comedy that is slightly less than the sum of its parts.