From left, Dimitri Leonidas, George Clooney, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Matt Damon in "The Monuments Men."
From left, Dimitri Leonidas, George Clooney, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Matt Damon in "The Monuments Men." (Photo credit by Claudette Barius)

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

NEW FILMS

The Monuments Men

3 Days to Kill

Grand Piano

Pompeii

Vampire Academy

Way of the Wicked

Like Someone in Love

TELEVISION

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

OLDER FILMS

Nosferatu the Vampyre

The Evil Dead

Invasion Europe: 70th Anniversary War Collection

True Stories of WWII Collection

Killing Them Softly

Lawless

Law Abiding Citizen

The Lords of Salem



Follow Rob Lowman on Twitter at: roblowman1