A reporter in Iraq might just have the story of a lifetime when he meets Lyn Cassady, a guy who claims to be a former member of the U.S. Army's New Earth Army, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions.
Thanks to a run of bad luck and go-nowhere jobs, John convinces Russell to join the army so they can get in shape, likening it to a health spa. Once in boot camp, wiseguy John tangles with his by-the-book Sgt. and becomes the unofficial leader for his platoon, made up mostly of other misfits and assorted losers. After somehow making it through graduation, they are given a special assignment but, thanks to John's romantic interest in a pretty MPO, the other men wind up behind the Iron Curtain until John, Russell, their dates and Sgt. Hulka make a daring rescue attempt in explosive style. Written by
Stripes is firmly planted in my vernacular as one of those films that helped shape me as a twelve year old boy. It is also one of those films that made me become the film lover that I am today. I know films like Star Wars and it's two sequels, First Blood and Rambo, Jaws and it's sequel, Halloween, Back To The Future, Ghostbusters, Raiders and it's sequels and Stripes ( there are many others but this review has to be under 1000 words )taught me the beauty of how a movie can make you feel. And Stripes was the first movie that me and my best friend at the time ( Gary ) ever memorized word for word. And I think that it is this movie that established Murray, Ramis and even guys like Candy and John Laroquette as comedians. It also has a small role for Bill Paxton in it somewhere. It was also a great stepping stone for the three amigos ( Murray, RAmis and Reitman ) to get funding for a bigger project like Ghostbusters. And if you were an executive at Columbia you would probably hand them a blank cheque for that project after seeing this film. Simply put this film is a classic in every sense of the word.
Stripes tells the story of how John Winger and Russell Ziskey ( Murray and Ramis respectively ) are two losers in life. Winger is an inept cab driver that hates his job so much that he throws his keys off the city bridge one day while driving an annoying lady to the airport. Ziskey is a terrible English as a second language teacher. And he is so inept that he tries to get is class to sing songs during class as their lesson. " I met her on a Monday and my heart stood still " Ziskey sings, and his class responds " da do da da da da da da da do da da da da, " and the he congratulates them and dismisses them until next week.
After Winger informs Ziskey that in the last three hours he has lost his job, his car, his apartment and his girlfriend, they decide to join the army. And then all hilarity breaks loose. It is here that we meet an assorted cast of hooligans and misfits that add to the enjoyment of the movie.
You have Ox ( Candy ) as an overweight guy who thinks the army is a perfect place to lose weight for free. There is Francis Sawyer, but everyone calls him Psycho, as a nut that thinks he is in Vietnam or someplace. You also have Cruiser, who joined the army because his father and brother were in the army and also because he thought he should join before he got drafted. Then there is Elmo, who is played by a pre-Fast Times Judge Reinhold. He is a wasted jolly stoner who is jjst looking to get stoned. Why he is joining the army is a little perplexing, but really, who cares? He is fun to watch so little details like this are overlooked. And of course we have Sgt. Hulka played with absolute earnestness by the late great Warren Oates. Needless to say, it is an interesting bunch of characters.
The film works for various reason, but mainly because Ramis and Dan Goldberg have written a hilarious script that puts the misfits through one twistedly funny situation after another. If only the army were this fun, everyone would want to enlist.
The first half of the film works because of the basic training scenes. The second half works because the misfit recruits are assigned to protect a secret R.V. that the army has concocted. Winger and Ziskey of course can't stay bored for long and they take the R.V. out for a run to Austria to go pick up their girlfriends.
Stripes is one of the funniest movies ever made and it should be checked out by younger people that were born after 1980. I was about 12 when I saw this and my dad laughed at this just as much as I did. And if all you have to go on for comedy is things like Waterboy and Big Daddy ( very funny movies in their own right ) you are missing some great older comedy. You should really check this out.
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