Review: Baffling ‘Goats’ wastes a lot of talent


A coming-of-age story featuring Vera Farmiga as a narcissistic New Age mom, David Duchovny as her pot-smoking Jesus-bearded goat herder/poolman and Ty Burrell as the divorced dad with the new wife, would appear to have all sorts of behavioral flavors to chew on.

Alas, “Goats” — to borrow from the traits of its titular ruminants — nibbles on a lot of stuff it never gets around to digesting.

Adapted from Mark Jude Poirier’s novel (by the author himself), the film takes 15-year-old Ellis (Graham Phillips) on a tour of responsibility-challenged parental figures as he bounces from mom’s Arizona desert hideaway — beautifully shot by Wyatt Troll — to an East Coast prep school and back.


But it all remains remarkably free of memorable comic situations, dramatic tension or emotional insight. Adolescence may be bruising, crazy or normal, but it’s rarely this staid.

First-time director Christopher Neil seems to believe his dully elegant compositions will burst with instant meaning as long as one of his many name actors (including Justin Kirk, Anthony Anderson and Keri Russell) are in frame and the Elliott Smith-style acoustic guitar noodling is constant. He also assumes scenes in which weed is procured, not procured, used and/or misused are automatically funny.

The goats’ steady bleating feels like an accurate response to this tired movie.


“Goats.” MPAA rating: R for drug content including teen drug and alcohol use, language, sexuality and nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena; the Port Theatre, Corona del Mar.