Given the list of top actors, and the intriguing, based-on-real-events story, The Men Who Stare At Goats could have been a classic black comedy - that is, if more effort had been made to avoid the patchy plot and weak character development.
Whiny journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is in Iraq to prove his manliness. But when he meets psychic soldier Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), he learns of a secret military unit that uses mind powers in warfare. The unit's founder, Bill (Jeff Bridges), has gone missing, and the pair sets out to find him.
Director Grant Heslov wanted to combine comedy, satire, anti-war sentiment and action using fast-paced, eccentric editing. But he tries too hard to impress, resulting in a confusing, flashback-laden film which is ultimately a letdown.
Between very humorous moments and plenty of airtime for the big names, there is hardly any time for the satirical messages or thrilling action sequences to make an impact. What's left is a series of disjointed events which the A-list actors' sub-par performances can't save.
There is plenty to enjoy here: non-stop witty, memorable lines, hilarious physical comedy, and Bridges' instantly likeable hippie, not to mention the surreal idea of a psychic military unit.
This is another case of a potentially great movie missing the mark, leaving viewers with a lot of quotable lines and a sadly hollow feeling.