In “The Monuments Men,” George Clooney took a fascinating real-life story and turned it into a somewhat innocuous but sometimes entertaining buddy war story.
The true heroes of “Monuments Men” are a group of curators, restorers and archivists who retrieved art stolen by the Nazis in World War II, some of it among the greatest works ever produced. Their deeds are chronicled in numerous books, including “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” written by Robert M. Edsel, with Bret Witter, which is what Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov based this film on.
He then gathers up a team of art professionals who otherwise would not be fit for war. They include Matt Damon as James Granger, a museum curator; John Goodman, as a sculptor; Bob Balaban as a theater director; Bill Murray as an architect; Hugh Bonneville as a disgraced art historian; and Jean Dujardin as a French art expert. Cate Blanchett plays Claire Simone, inspired by Rose Valland, a French art scholar who spied on the Nazis.
It’s a likable crew for any two-hour movie, and there is a likable factor to the film, but Clooney never emotionally or intellectually gets across the importance of the mission or the risks, although there is a lot of talk about whether saving a bunch of paintings is worth soldiers’ lives.
Coincidentally, Damon was in a film that better delineated the need for risks to be taken for the greater good — “Saving Private Ryan.” Give the filmmakers credit for trying to turn this fascinating story into mass entertainment, though. If you don’t know about these real-life heroes at all, Clooney’s film is a pleasing enough introduction in which we once again see the evil Nazis getting their comeuppance.
Elsewhere, there is little to recommend except “Call the Midwife: Season Three,” the continuing drama of women in 1950s England who assisted in home birthing, and “The Dick Van Dyke Show: Classic Mary Tyler Moore Episodes,” which pretty much says it all.
DVDs out Tuesday
The Monuments Men
3 Days to Kill
Way of the Wicked
Like Someone in Love
Call the Midwife: Season Three
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Classic Mary Tyler Moore Episodes
Arthur Hailey’s The Moneychangers
Dalziel & Pascoe: Season Nine
Happy Days: The Fifth Season
Waking the Dead: Season Nine
Warehouse 13: The Complete Series
Warehouse 13: Season Five
Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley
Nosferatu the Vampyre
The Evil Dead
Invasion Europe: 70th Anniversary War Collection
True Stories of WWII Collection
Killing Them Softly
Law Abiding Citizen
The Lords of Salem
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