The Monuments Men (2014) PG-13

In yet another attempt to tell a "forgotten story " of WWII, this movie is the story of the effort to save art treasures from evil Nazis. Borrowing a page from Napoleon, Hitler confiscated art, jewels and treasures from the nations that he vanquished.  In response, the Army assembles an unlikely team of art and cultural experts, who would otherwise be unfit for duty, to rescue art from the Nazi conquerors in Europe. This film sometimes hits and sometimes misses.  The movie doesn’t adequately explain Hitler’s motives for stealing the art, however.  It alludes to a grand Hitler museum, which will be built in Germany some day to house his stolen booty, but that museum was never really built.  I believe that he probably planned to sell the treasures off to finance the war effort.  Another weakness of the film is that it does not give enough credit to the Europeans themselves for hiding and preserving their art treasures.  Many of them did so at great personal risk.  The film gives the false impression that only a handful of occupied citizens helped the Allies rescue their art when, in reality, thousands did so.

The violence of war is treated oddly in this film as well. In some sequences it is treated lightly in a manner that is reminiscent of Hogan's Heroes, and then, suddenly, there is a somber moment when someone gets killed.  There are some minor anachronisms in the film such as the overuse of color slides, song lyrics, and the lighting of the Eiffel Tower.  There are modern maps of the Netherlands used, confusion over the correct location of the statue of the Madonna, and mistakes regarding which territories were occupied by the Russians at the end of the War.  Finally, a soldier is shown in civilian clothes in a war zone.  That was strictly prohibited at the time.  On the plus side, the movie is fairly light on profanity and dirty jokes.  It has no graphic sexual content.  It would be suitable for a humanities class because it contains the theme that art should be preserved at all costs because it is so important that it outlives us all.  It is not really worth the time to show in a history class, however because it does not teach enough the war to justify the instructional time spent on it.  

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