The big theatrical release this weekend may be the animated romp The Lego Movie, but on At The Movies, Peter Travers highlights another film that requires a bit more from its audience: The Monuments Men.
Directed and co-written by George Clooney, the film boasts an all-star cast that includes Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett, all of whom were paid pennies on the dollar to make an entertaining film that's "a kind of Oceans Eleven caper movie set during World War II."
Based on a true story, Men follows a group of architects and art historians – "people who have no business putting on a uniform and fighting," Travers notes – who travel to Europe in hopes of retrieving precious artwork stolen by Adolf Hitler. While some critics have bemoaned the film for being a dusty, dull and irrelevant story about saving old art, Travers has high praise for Clooney and The Monuments Men, particularly the way it tackles a truly important question: "What's worth fighting for?"
"What do we represent when we say, 'This is my art?' Does it live on after us?" The film doesn't get so deep that it answers those heavy questions, but as Travers notes, "It's an entertaining ride and underneath it, it gives you something to think about."
Travers also takes a moment to note the film's relevance to the recent tragic passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who gave another brilliant performance in Clooney's previous directorial effort, The Ides of March. "We look back on that life and that career and say, 'Please don't define him by his addictions, define him by his art,'" Travers says. "Which goes back to what The Monuments Men is about – the people who painted these may have been flawed like all of us as human beings. But they did something. They created something. And that is an art form in and of itself."