Before watching the movie:
So Pauly Shore made a movie about bumbling through the military. I have a sense it will be more like At War With The Army than Stripes. I don’t think Pauly Shore is worth the many vehicles he got in the 90s, but he’s not the anti-comedy people seem to make him out as.
His partner in comedy is Andy Dick here, and I’m kind of looking forward to his awkward but slightly less creepy than Woody Allen style.
After watching the movie:
Bones and Jack are a couple of slacker salesmen at “Crazy Boys” electronics in Glendale, who get fired for flagrant goofing off and run into some army reservists who tell them of the financial benefits of joining the Reserve just for completing Basic Training and reporting for duty only one weekend a month, two weeks a year. Intending to use the signing bonus to open their own electronics store, Bones and Jack enlist. Bones chooses water purification as his specialty because it seems like the safest thing on the list, and Jack follows him. They’re assigned to a unit with Christine, who joined the Reserves because they won’t let women into combat, and Fred, a panphobic dental student who joined up to toughen up. While celebrating their return from specialty training, they receive word that Libya is about to invade Chad, and they’re being deployed. When their waterbearing mission goes astray, peace in Africa is suddenly in these reservists’ hands.
I have to eat my words about Andy Dick not being very creepy. His character makes passes at Christine constantly despite her not only bluntly telling her no every time, but nearly twisting his wrist off the first time he laid a hand on her. And yet, the tone still manages to make that halfway endearing, I think because he has no real confidence in himself. On the other hand, what bugged me more was Bones trying to flirt with his lady drill sergeant all through basic training, despite it only getting him more pushups. Every time he says something, he has 100% confidence it will work this time, and I find that pretty skeevy. Also filed under “Dangit, The Nineties” are an attempt to get discharged as homosexuals foiled by their commander telling the guys to kiss, and a passing reference to an unseen trans woman as “that thing”. This was a mid-90s PG comedy.
The central plot arc concerns Bones, who makes PFC by the end of specialty training and thus outranks the rest of his unit, having to learn how to take responsibility and lead his people. And while he does get a chance to give an inspiring pep talk to get them on board with their mission, the real climax isn’t so much resolved by him taking command but by him improvising a solution with the tools available because the plan provided by the 1SG on the radio isn’t good enough, which doesn’t feel as much like character growth as it feels like Chekhov’s gun being fired.
Of course, the movie draws parallels to Stripes, which had better jokes and Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, but I think the most interesting change is that Stripes was made near the end of the Cold War, when we had a firm sense of who the enemy was even though there wasn’t much fighting left to be had, and this movie is in the early post-Soviet world, where most people didn’t even think about foreign threats. Where that movie was built around the global chess game, the conflict this is set in is essentially an American policing action. The US is there because Libya is violating UN law, but Libya counter-escalates to almost declaring war on the US in response. Also Stripes is in cold climates and this is in warm climates, but that’s more superficial.
This was entertaining. Not the best way to pass the time, but a serviceable movie. Shore’s character has a pretty effective arc of growing into likeability, which has to count for something.