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
When the recruits are telling their personal stories, Sgt. Hulka has his clipboard in his left hand. When he stands up, the clipboard is in his right hand. See more »
I joined the army 'cause my father and my brother were in the army. I thought I'd better join before I got drafted.
Son, there ain't no draft no more.
There was one?
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Four actors with the first name "John", are listed back -to-back in the final credits: John Candy, John Larroquette, John Voldstad and John Diehl. See more »
The TV version also uses an alternate take as Sgt. Hulka leaves the barracks following Winger's "Big Toe" speech. It is a slightly different angle, and Sgt. Hulka's line is a little more TV-friendly. See more »
A Hundred-Dollar Shine on a Three-Dollar Pair of Shoes
I understand the enjoyment of it. The prolonged and arguably dignified ancestry includes Buck Privates, Duck Soup and the like. This cheeky young Bill Murray is firmly anchored in Groucho, the clue I'd consider an early scuffle with a Manhattan matron. The idea is recapturing the same timbre but with a clear post-SNL hipster slacker derision. And like those vintage vehicles were for the classic comedy teams, storytelling amounts to little more than piecing together various sorts of obligatory scenes, cycling through the kinds that entails.
You look back on all the moments and not so much the transitions between them. Who needs them? That's supposed to be the attitude one brings to one of these sorts of movies. It has that Animal House feel. Take a rigid institution of authoritarian discipline and formality and throw a big pie in its face. And fart on its head for good measure. Just as John Vernon was the anal-retentive square lording it over our slacker heroes in John Landis' film, Warren Oates plays Sgt. 1st Class Hulka, who gives Murray the most discipline he must've ever had in his life, making him the closest character in the film to give the film cohesion. Otherwise, this lazy but likable classic wastes most of its time overstressing situations contradicted from the start by Murray's character. The star act and his material are essentially misaligned until the tedious, scattered script ultimately labors past basic training.
The blessing I think Stripes brings to the golden-age slapstick template is a more vivid ensemble. Yes, In the Navy and A Night at the Opera had plots, but with the attention to detail and ripeness in dialogue and characterization of a present-day cartoon. The peripheral people around the stars of the act were virtually prevented from having too much presence or distinction for fear of upstaging the deal-breaking stars, but in Stripes, others clowning in basic-training include Judge Reinhold's head-bobbing stoner, Conrad Dunn's broad-stroke acknowledgment to Travis Bickle (likely more of a Harold Ramis contribution), and John Candy's soft-hearted fatso, who finds the Laurel to his Hardy in southern boy John Diehl. They all have the kind of indelible character we hope for in especially young performances of actors who later became more prevalent. And yet P.J. Soles and Sean Young are there for one reason, the same one reason all us young guys wanted them in it. Other than that, there is absolutely nothing else. Not a single realistic action is allowed from them.
Director Ivan Reitman is a sure merchant. He knows that the cheap laughs are the most certain, that we like to see bunglers get it together without losing their ungainly style, and that it doesn't harm business to slot in a sorority shower scene or nude mud-wrestling competition every 30 minutes or so. Vietnam was by now a bygone phase, and this is Reagan's Good Army. When Ivan Reitman wants to ambush the Eastern Bloc in a Winnebago crammed with rockets, he has the certified OK for dozens of tanks, explosions, shootouts and hand-to-hand combat moments. But believe me, it was a great deal funnier when we were ten.
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