Bill Murray and Harold Ramis join the army in this 1981 Ivan Reitman comedy. Let's hope we don't go to war unless we're fighting ghosts. The Ghostbusters (minus Dan Ackroyd) team up again in the funniest army film ever produced. John Winger (MURRAY), a New York City cab driver, decides he doesn't want to take a snobby dowager to the airport so he leaves her in the back seat of a taxi on the George Washington Bridge. Because it's just the latest in a long line of jobs he's lost or quit his 'sexual dynamo' girlfriend dumps him. His car is repossessed and he's being evicted from his apartment. Just one step above Winger is his best friend Russel Ziskey (RAMIS) ...at least he has a job. He teaches immigrants the type of conversational English that you would NOT learn in school.
John realizes he's going nowhere and has to change his lifestyle. "I've gotta get in shape and dry out or I'll be dead by thirty." His answer lies in an army recruiting TV commercial.
"You could join a monastery," Ziskey suggests as an alternative.
"Did you ever see a monk get wildly f***ed by a bunch of teenage girls?"
He drags Ziskey with him to Fort Arnold boot camp under the command of one drill Sgt. Hulka (WARREN OATES). The other recruits are more hapless than Winger and Ziskey.
OX (CANDY) has joined the army to lose weight: "I swallow a lot of aggression along with a lot of pizzas."
Another one joined because he thinks there's still a draft.
A pre-"Beverly Hills Cop" JUDGE REINHOLD plays a dim-wit who thinks he can smuggle drugs onto the recruit bus.
Then there's Frances "Psycho" Soyer: "All I know is I finally get to kill somebody."
Winger makes fast enemies with them all when he predictably mouths off to Sgt. Hulka and has the whole platoon doing pushups outside in a rainstorm. After one confrontation with Hulka he attempts to run away in the middle of the night. Ziskey gets help bringing him back from two pretty and sympathetic Military Policewomen (Sean Young and P.J. Soles) who don't know they'll be making a career of bailing out the two recruits.
Meanwhile inept Captain Stillman (a hilarious LARROQUETTE of TV sitcom "Night Court" fame) is given a mission by the Colonel that he dares not fail. He must get the platoon in top shape for the army's publicity campaign: "Our newest soldiers with our latest weapon". The latest weapon is the EM-50 urban assault vehicle, a fully armed contraption that's part truck, part van. It looks like Stillman is going to be assigned to a weather station in the Arctic circle when Sgt. Hulka is injured and the recruits are left on their own.
This plot has been rehashed many times...a discipline-proof rebel is thrown into the military and becomes not only a model soldier but a hero. PRIVATE BENJAMIN starring Goldie Hawn comes to mind. But those other films lack Murraymaniacism. Who else but Bill Murray could turn the marching platoon's chorus of "left...left...left right left" into "Doo wa diddy"? I can't praise his comic genius enough. The "We're American soldiers" morale-building speech is unforgettable:
"We're all Americans...it means our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We're mutts. So we're all very different but there's something we have in common. We were all stupid enough to enlist in the army."
Other critics have called this movie plot "ridiculous". It's supposed to be! It's a comedy, and a comedy with actors like John Candy and Bill Murray can't lose. Just when you think the movie is almost over it meanders into a new adventure for Winger and Ziskey. When they 'borrow' the EM-50 to take the girls on a date the plot really takes off. Despite the over-the-top plot the characters are realistic. I can relate to John Winger having to deal with the army's silly outdated regimens and rules, going overboard in its zeal to destroy the individual. It isn't necessary, and Winger proves that. Warren Oates also does a great job with the Sgt. Hulka character. He's exactly how I would picture a platoon leader...extremely tough (because it's his job) but with a heart. Of course I'll never know for sure what a drill seargeant is like. I've asked people which organization would kick me out sooner...a convent or the military. They tell me the convent would because in the army they'd just shoot me.
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