The Men Who Stare at Goats: George Clooney Can’t Read Your Mind

Goats begins with the mind-fucking assertion that "more of this is true than you would believe." And would you believe that George Clooney's latest production—directed by Grant Heslov and loosely adapted from Jon Ronson's 2005 account of the U.S. Army's adventures in paranormality—is meant to be a comedy? Perhaps in 1967, and under the right pharmaceutical conditions, it might have seemed so. Ronson's book—which takes its title from experimental attempts to induce goat coronaries with the evil eye—traced a circuitous path from the CIA's Eisenhower-era LSD experiments to more recent applications of musical mind control. Heslov's movie focuses on Ronson's greatest scoop, namely the battalion of occultist commandos—here called the New Earth Army—cooked up by a Viet vet colonel (Jeff Bridges, stealing the show) gone New Age. Stumbling through an obstacle course of flashbacks, the movie sends a hapless American reporter (Ewan McGregor) into the cauldron of Desert Storm, where, meeting the New Earth Army's super-intense, one-time champion goat-starer (Clooney), he loses a smidge of his smirk. Despite a backbeat of perky music and sarcastic voiceover, Goats lacks pizzazz. The movie isn't funny enough to work as farce, but it's far too dippy to take seriously. What's mildly exasperating is that there is an actual quest involved: The movie goes out to the desert in search of its tone—and never finds it.

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