11/9/09

The Men Who Stare at Goats


This off-beat comedy is a fish-out-of-water story where the fish is not so much a person in an awkward situation as it is an ideal in a completely alien culture. Loosely based on the First Earth Battalion program run out of the US military in the 80's, it takes the man we all know as Obi-Wan Kenobi, strips him of his Jedi Knight status and reduces him to Padawan under the apprenticeship of newly appointed Jedi Knight, George Clooney. As fun as this story is standing alone, it's even more enjoyable as a commentary on the effect that Star Wars has had on America in general and the military specifically. So that's how I'm going to approach it.

Bob Wilton (McGregor) is a journalist with aspirations of being so much more. He knows there's a far-off war he could be fighting in. So in order to prove himself to his estranged wife, he leaves his humble moisture farm in search of adventure. Along the way, he meets an old Jedi Knight, Lyn Cassady (Clooney), who insists that he must learn the ways of the First Earth Battalion and become a Jedi Knight.

Meanwhile, Darth Hooper (Spacey), who took part in the downfall and dismemberment of the original First Earth Battalion, is busy building for himself a new empire within the Psy-Ops division of the US Military! It takes the combined wits of the only two remaining Jedi Knights, Cassady and his master, Yoda Bill Django (Bridges) and Wilton to free the captive goats in the Psy-Ops camp and bring down the empire with peace, love and LSD.

One of the funnest things about this movie is watching Obi-Wan deny any knowledge of the Jedi Knights and watching Clooney tell him that he knows nothing about being a Jedi Knight. I'm a sucker for that kind of meta-humor. Which means that if you're not into that kind kind of "winking at the camera," then you'll probably be left in the dark in what is otherwise just a weird mix of hippie and soldier cultures. It's a fun film, though! Don't let anything discourage you from giving it a try. Especially if you like laughing at hippies.