We went to this movie with high hopes because, well, what movie wouldn’t be awesome that has John Goodman and Bill Murray in it. I mean really. Unfortunately, Laura and I came away from this one rather disappointed.
The premise of this one can be summed up pretty simply. World War II is winding down; the Germans know they’re losing so they set out to destroy as much of the world’s great art as they can before they go. Only one thing stands in their way: motley bunch of aging artists. Dramatics ensue from there.
On the positive side, the film does a great job of portraying the importance of the period of history we’re talking about. A thousand years of human art and culture really is on the line. Other reviewers complain about the protagonist’s pontifications but this is the whole point of the film. The Nazi’s weren’t just out to destroy the Jews or rule the world. If they were going down they wanted to take as much of the world with them as they could no matter the price. This story is the ultimate example of “play by my rules or I’ll take my ball and go home.” So all those prolonged speeches aren’t in the way of the real action of this war movie, they are in fact its only reason for being.
To the negative, as a connected narrative this movie was just hacked to bits. It could have made a meticulous and moving 6-hour mini-series but cut down to movie size the whole thing is a disconnected mess. There are, at various points, three distinct story lines but the relationships between them are unclear then suddenly they’re all slammed together in a barely sensical manner. Further, the movie suffers from Hollywood over-drama just for the sake of drama. It’s almost as if they tried to make an action flick out of a story that wasn’t one.
In summary, sadly disappointed. Those looking for a movie about a war… won’t really get one. Those looking for a moving portrayal of an important historical event won’t get what they want either. The whole thing is at times sentimental but never really manages that either. It’s almost as if the movie tried to be 10 things at once and never really accomplished any of them with any deftness. Quite a shame, really.
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