At the end of a very bad day when he realizes his life has gone and is going nowhere, John Winger is able to convince his best friend, Russell Ziskey, whose life is not much better, to enlist in the army, despite they not being obvious soldier material. In basic training, they are only two of a bunch of misfits that comprise their platoon. However, it is still John that is constantly butting heads with their drill sergeant, Sergeant Hulka. Two of their saving graces are Stella and Louise, two MPs who get them out of one scrape after another. Their entire platoon is in jeopardy of not graduating. But what happens during basic leads to their entire platoon being assigned to an overseas mission in Italy, to test a new urban assault vehicle, the EM-50 project. John and Russell decide to take the EM-50 for an unauthorized test drive to visit Stella and Louise who have been reassigned to West Germany. In the process, the rest of the platoon, Hulka, and Hulka's immediate superior, ... Written by
Despite the fact that there is no way on God's green earth or this country's army that such a set of circumstances could ever happen, that's still no reason not to enjoy Stripes. The film is in a long line of service comedies that date all the way back to Charlie Chaplin's Shoulder Arms and further than that. Even Shakespeare found some humor in army life, just read how Falstaff made do in the service of his king.
Of course Falstaff wasn't a drill sergeant like Warren Oates who had a platoon of underachievers with the likes of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and John Candy as recruits. As is usual the service comedies make a mistake in that the basic training company stays intact with the same sergeant. In real life Oates would have taken a drink when the eight weeks was done and gone on to some fresh young trainees.
But some brain in the Pentagon decides that what a new type urban assault vehicle needs is some fresh recruits to maintain it, reasoning if the vehicle is worthy it can stand up to goofballs. The vehicle looks like your ordinary average camper, in fact Murray and Ramis while they're guarding it decide it would be a great chick magnet. So they pick up a pair of female MPs in P.J. Soles and Sean Young.
The officer in charge is John Larroquette who isn't much better than the recruits he has and when the vehicle turns up missing, he sounds the general alarm worthy of the Captain in Mister Roberts. He leads the whole troop after Murray and Ramis right into at that time Communist Czechoslovakia and some nasty Russians. Good thing they didn't have their A team playing either.
Stripes is your typical armed service comedy with a nice Eighties twist from Bill Murray and a crew from Saturday Night Live just coming into their prime as players. John Larroquette is the best in the film, imagine ADA Dan Fielding in an army uniform and you got Larroquette's character. You notice the New York County DA's office never gives Fielding any really big cases to handle.
And yes that vehicle can withstand anything and it has more tricks than James Bond's Astin-Martin. To see what and how much, you have to watch Stripes.
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