The Men Who Stare At Goats: ** (out of 4)
When Jon Ronson, the author of the book version of The Men Who Stare At Goats appeared on The Daily Show a few months back, he amused me with his story: a (non-fiction) look at the US Military's attempts to harness psychic and new-agey techniques for combat purposes. He came in primarily to talk about the book, but it was in relation to the upcoming movie version; and at the very least, I was intrigued. But when the time came to see the movie, I was a little bit less enthused; after all, the movie is "inspired by" the book, not "based on". This concept has worried me every time that I've run across it - think I, Robot, which proves my point quite well, or Starship Troopers, which at least shows that it doesn't always end badly. Regardless, I went into the movie without reading the book, but open to the idea that there was something fun there.
Well... there were some good parts.
The movie turns out to be an absurd comedy, trying to show off the silliness of a bunch of military-types taking themselves seriously while find their chakras and (yes) kill goats with their minds. There is a story behind it, but it's hardly relevant to the situation and its associated comedy, and more often than not it gets left behind so the main characters can tell lengthy stories, detailing sections of the history of the project. Most of the laughter comes from this (maddeningly divided) history; and honestly, those stories were told better in front of Jon Stewart.
The most clever joke of the movie is based around the casting. The soldiers trained in psychic warfare are referred to as "Jedi", and one of the two stars of the movie is Ewan McGregor. This made me laugh, at least, even if most of the rest didn't...
Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate this movie. I was just disappointed. Before the movie began, there was a commercial for Levi's Jeans. This isn't unusual. What is unusual is that a) the commercial involved a shot of Multnomah Falls, and b) I had been there about 45 minutes before the movie began. Sadly, this amused me more than the movie itself.