Military farces were a very popular type of comedy cinema in the 1950s and many movies were produced to poke fun at stereotypical behaviour of officers and the rigid rules of life in the barracks. One earlier example of the genre is Ossi Elstelä's musically titled Serenaadiluutnantti from the late 1940s.
The plot is borderline non-existent and the story is mainly built around catchy songs and stereotypical characters doing what they always do: two traveling performers named Oinas and Holopainen (Henry Theel and Ossi Elstelä) accidentally end up in an Army base after boarding a wrong bus. Penniless and without a much better place to go, they decide to spend a few days posing as recruits in order to enjoy the free food and accommodation. Of course, their immediate superior Staff Sergeant Mäkimies (Kalle Viherpuu) is a raging but gullible hard-ass, the women in the barracks (Sinikka Koskela and Siiri Angerkoski) cause some romantic tension and the laid-back "recruits" manage to play pranks and avoid any kind of work like professionals.
The good-voiced star singer Henry Theel and the chubby Savo-speaking Ossi Elstelä do their parts well, even though the plot hardly calls for master-class actors. The songs are pretty fun and by far the best part of the movie, especially near the beginning during the variety show that features some flashy acrobatic dancing, Theel telling jokes in a little girl's voice and the legendary children's favourite Markus-setä as a host. In fact, they really should have saved the show scene for the ending, since the ordinary schlagers that we hear later on do not have the same exhilarating effect as the dancing and juggling. Another option, of course, would have been to fill the whole runtime with numbers like that instead of spending it with unimaginative bumbling and romantic misunderstandings.
As a big fan of movie musicals I just cannot give the film a rating of less than five stars out of ten but I must note that if it was not for the songs, there really would not be much to see. Well, the natural folksy charisma of Elstelä and Angerkoski is pretty alright and the movie seems to understand its meager status since the runtime has been limited to mere 75 minutes. To close the review with a last sentence mini-summary of my thoughts: musical fans may enjoy this one; others may just as well skip it.
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