New on Netflix: “Zany platoon buddies” uplifts columnists’ spirits

A drawback of movie reviewing that uses a medium allowing one to pick and choose material is the overabundance of choice.

Too often, I’m up in the wee hours Monday morning, trying to decide which of the various movies and TV shows I’ve watched over the past week is deserving of getting praised, slammed, or scrambled and served over toast, usually with an old episode of “Saturday Night Live” playing in the background.

My brother once told me that I need training on decision-making.

That’s when it hit me. “What kind of training?”

“Ahhhhaaaarmy training, sir!”


This coming-of-middle-age tale of a slacker taxi driver, John (Bill Murray), and a pushover English teacher for immigrants who just can’t say no, Russell (Harold Ramis), defines the genre of absurdist 1980s comedy as told by the long list of SNL alumnus.

Murray, after quitting his job by abandoning his cab, and passenger, on a bridge and losing his girlfriend to his own lack of direction, decides that the easiest way to straighten himself out is the United States Army still fresh from the horrors of Vietnam.

After quite easily convincing Ramis to join him in his misadventure, the dumb duo fumble their way through basic training and their first assignment in Italy, becoming the great Army heroes no one thought they could be.

Common in SNL-linked comedies of the 80s, “Stripes” starts off normally enough, then takes a hard left into the haze-riddled flights of silly fantasy that come from writing the last third of a script high on shrooms.

In example, it is semi-believable that a pair of 30-something army recruits could bed a pair of 20-something Military Police, however once you get to the second half of the plot, well, let’s just say I haven’t seen military equipment that “inspired” since I saw the USS Substandard in 1990’s “Going Under.”

Murray goes full steam with his “slightly stupid, lovable oaf” character that defined his career until turning grey, and Ramis’ supporting performance makes me sad he hasn’t been in anything notable since the “Ghostbusters” movies.

The cast of zany platoon buddies is rounded out with solid supporting performances by such icons as Judge Reinhold (“Beverly Hills Cop”), the late John Candy (“Canadian Bacon”), John Larroquette (“Boston Legal”) and Warren Oates (from the original “True Grit”).


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