Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
At once optimistic about what the military could do if it replaced its guns with flowers, and cynical about what the non-believers and opportunists can - and did - do to that dream
At the Movies:
Everyone involved seems to have had a pretty good time, but this one looks like it was more fun to make than it is to watch.
Caution: Staring at 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' may result in your falling down laughing, courtesy of a devilishly smart script, subversive japery and a flawlessly funny cast.
Wall Street Journal:
You may wonder if this screen version of the book of the same name is as unfunny and strangely mushy as it seems, but trust your instincts.
The Men Who Stare at Goats doesn't stay with you long, but it's good fun while it lasts.
It's ... two-thirds of the way to being awesome. Had Heslov eased back a bit, Goats might've made it the rest of the way.
For a movie that searches constantly for a consistent feel, sometimes within the same scene, The Men Who Stare at Goats is remarkably entertaining.
You can't make this stuff up, but you can botch the telling of it, and that's what sinks this satiric drama based loosely on a 2004 nonfiction book by London-based journalist Jon Ronson.
Los Angeles Times:
If there doesn't seem to be enough story here to make a movie, seeing the film's practiced farceurs at work can't help but be amusing. A lot more fun, all things considered, than trying to will yourself through a wall.
J. R. Jones,
Clooney and Bridges model an assortment of wigs and facial hair as they labor to put across their outsize characters.
It seems too much a privilege to be chuckling in the theater about psychic warfare while the unfunny business of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan continues.
This is grizzled, wild-eyed Clooney, not the suave sophisticate, and it's a nice change of pace.
The Men Who Stare at Goats is a magical-realist sitcom war farce that ends up being about nothing but its own slovenly smugness.
C. Robert Cargill,
Definitely a film for those looking for something off the beaten path, though the lack of a more defined plot keeps this from being a must-see film.
The Men Who Stare at Goats is a premise in wait for a movie -- the pilot episode for a TV series that got canceled before it got cooking.
All in all, Goats would have been groaningly familiar, even back in the 1960s.
Clooney gives it everything, but what does he get in return? A void where the story is meant to be.
What had been a slightly quirky satire becomes first a wild comedy, then an impassioned expose. Taking itself too seriously (and treating the military as a joke), it quickly begins to unravel.
New York Post:
Heslov directs for the first time in a career that, I pray, will consist of one movie.
New York Observer:
Intended as a farcical antidote to big-screen bores about Afghanistan and Iraq, it's twice as pompous and endlessly tedious.
The Men Who Stare at Goats has a glorious good time satirizing the extravagant lengths to which the military and intelligence establishments will go if they think there's a payoff at the other end.
The Men Who Stare at Goats is a comedy, and I laughed quite a few times while watching it, but that sobering reality almost makes me want to cry.
It actually doesn't matter if the book is truthful. It doesn't claim the paranormal powers are real. Ronson simply says some officials thought they might be -- and that if they were, we had to get there first. The movie is funny either way.
It's hard to resist a satire, even when it wobbles, that insists the most unbelievable parts are the most true.
There's no doubt we need more movies for grown-ups, with jokes that don't hit us over the head, but The Men Who Stare at Goats doesn't fit the bill. At best, it might hypnotize you into a stupor.
San Francisco Chronicle:
There's not much of a story here. All that energy, all that enthusiasm and all that self-generated propulsion are about one thing: distracting us from realizing it.
In fits and starts, director Heslov captures a lot of the drolly incredulous spirit of the book. It's just too bad the dots don't connect better.
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The yarn unravels without ever identifying its satirical targets. Is it a lampoon of peace-and-love mysticism? A critique of militant war-for-profit privateers? Ultimately, it's a shapeless wad of goat cheese.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The closer you look at The Men Who Stare at Goats, the better you see that its shaggy coat is covering some pointed truths.
Globe and Mail:
If this is what a Hollywood liberal conscience looks like, it's a glib and useless thing.
The picture lacks discipline and focus at times, but it's fun despite the chaos, although a wandering-in-the-desert scene goes on far too long.
Feels less like a transcendental breakthrough than a bit of conjuring misdirection. Fun trick, though.
This is the anti-Hurt Locker experience: Where that Iraq War film was absorbing and deadly serious, The Men Who Stare at Goats is irreverent and lighthearted.
A serendipitous marriage of talent in which all hearts seem to beat as one.
What's mildly exasperating is that there is an actual quest involved: The Men Who Stare at Goats goes out to the desert in search of its tone-and never finds it.
The sense of emotional detachment keeps things feeling smooth and low-key, but, as is clear in the film's last few scenes, the playful tone shades into the simply trivial, which in the setting doesn't quite play.