The Men Who Stare at Goats

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Men Who Stare at Goats Movie Poster Image
Loopy war comedy's offbeat humor may appeal to teens.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Though there's plenty of loopy behavior and manipulation here, the film ultimately wants to emphasize how important it is to believe in yourself and trust your instincts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are a flawed, complex group, though most have decent intentions. Bob is adrift in life, and his improbable adventure with Lyn helps him find his path. Lyn seems to have psychic powers, but he feels guilty for a long-past incident in which he was forced to use his powers for cruel purposes. Another character lies and manipulates others to advance his interests.

Violence

Much of the movie takes place during the Iraq War, and heavily armed soldiers and military contractors are involved in brief firefights. Flashbacks to the Vietnam War show combat, and a man is shot in the chest. Two characters are kidnapped at gunpoint. Some hand-to-hand fighting, and one character commits suicide.

Sex

No sex, but some partial nudity, including topless women in hot tubs and naked men seen from behind and at a distance.

Language

Many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "damn," "hell," "prick," "goddamn," and more.

Consumerism

References to several well-known companies, including Starbucks, McDonald's, and Halliburton.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes feature drinking and smoking, and some characters take drugs. Two key sequences center on characters tripping on LSD.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this offbeat war comedy based on the same-named book by Jon Ronson could be a magnet for teens intrigued by both the loopy humor and stars George Clooney and Ewan McGregor. Drug use -- presented in a humorous context -- plays a key role in a couple of significant scenes, which means that if your kids see it, a good talk about drugging might be in order. There's also drinking and smoking, some fighting and war-related violence, a fair amount of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more), and brief partial nudity (topless women and men's buttocks).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by2Simple October 30, 2010
Parent of a 11 year old Written byJenoi July 22, 2010
This was a stupid movie, don't waste your time.
Teen, 13 years old Written byGuyofMan March 29, 2010
Kid, 11 years old April 4, 2010

Funny but also dramatic

I thought the movie was pretty good. To me it was a mixture of a drama and a comedy. There was a lot of language though. I thought it was going to be a little f... Continue reading

What's the story?

Cuckolded Midwestern journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) heads for Iraq to prove to his philandering wife that he still has the goods. He finagles an entry into the country when, by luck, he runs into Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a former troop-mate of Wilton’s source who once revealed that he was part of a little-known unit of the Army that helped soldiers develop psychic powers. They explored how to use peace to stop war, let their bodies be free, danced, and supposedly stopped goats dead in their tracks by staring at them. But the arrival of manipulative soldier Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) put an end to the experiments. So what happened exactly? And what brings Lyn to Iraq?

Is it any good?

Inspired by journalist Jon Ronson's same-named book, THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS is absurdly entertaining, with beautifully rendered scenery and moments small and big filled with quirk and wit. But, like a raconteur who entertains but never quite gets to the point, this comedy doesn’t, either. Clooney clearly can make any material seem appealing, and with McGregor in the mix, too, how can you go wrong? But the film ultimately feels aimless and doesn't quite get it right -- it seems to be working toward some sort of grand message about peace in wartime or fighting with the mind and not with weapons, but it never quite arrives

Or maybe it really is just about outsiders within the military who make it their own -- with a hefty dose of help from every other New Age movement. (It also milks the Jedi jokes too much. We get it: Obi-Wan in Iraq.) As a character, Bob is particularly problematic, as he’s set up to undergo some kind of transformation. But does he, really? Unfortunately, you're never quite sure. There’s nothing to hang on to, no through line to lead viewers to the payoff.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's timeliness. With wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, check in with your kids about how satirizing combat comes across. What do your kids think?

  • The movie is clearly satirical, but is there a kernel of truth amid the jokes? If so, what is it?

  • The movie is supposedly based on a true story. Do you think it's believable? What do you think might have been changed in the course of making the movie? Why would filmmakers adjust the facts?

Movie details

For kids who love offbeat movies

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