Wednesday, September 15, 2010

“Chicks dig me, because I rarely wear underwear and when I do it's usually something unusual.”

Well here we are, sitting on the cusp of a new dawn here at Castle RMWC. New format, new ‘tude and, uh, a new review. Not having seen 1981’s Stripes was another disconnect between me and the 80s comedy gestalt that I’m slowly patching gaps for, and really, it’s quite strange that it took so long for me to finally watch it. After all, it’s got Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in. That’s half of the Ghostbusters right there! Well, a few months ago I sat down with the Extended cut DVD to see what the fuss was about.

Well, John Winger (Bill Murray), a slacker cab driver in New York gets fired, dumped and evicted on the same day. He decides to join the army to solve all three of these problems and talks his best friend, Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis) into joining too. Amazingly they get accepted and shipped off to boot camp and join a ragtag bunch of misfits that also include Ox (John Candy) and some other guys with quirky personalities. Winger constantly pisses off their hardass drill sergeant, Hulk (Warren Oates). Hulka gets put in the hospital during an accident in a live fire test, the squad manages to pass and get assigned to a mission in Europe to protect a top secret EM50 Urban Fighting Vehicle under the command of the incredibly incompetent Captain Stillman (John Larroquette).

It’s an RV.

Winger & Ziskey of course steal the RV to hang out with their MP girlfriends Stella (P.J. Soles) and Louise (Sean Young from Blade Runner). Through a complex series of misfortunes the rest of the platoon gets captured in Czechoslovakia (back when it was Czechoslovakia) and it’s up to the gang in the RV (and a recovered Hulka running around behind enemy lines by himself) to rescue the squad, which is really one of those plots that sneaks up on you when you actually sit down and think about it.

The cast is solid across the board with Murray & Ramis bouncing off each other excellently. Ramis playing the straight man and Murray playing the funny man. Oates’ Sgt. Hulka is another standout character for the hamminess being thrown out there.

Ivan Reitman (both Ghostbusters films) directed and Director of Photography Bill Butler. The movie looks fine, no problems. The extended cut definitely feels overly long in a few places (like the entire first AWOL sequence that has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the movie), but it makes up for it with an incredibly amusing climax with the EM50 storming the Iron Curtain and cutting loose. There’s also boobies. Mud Wrestling boobies.

Script by Len Blum, Daniel Goldberg & Harold Ramis. The story isn’t deep, but it does allow Bill Murray to cut loose and do his thing, which is exactly the point of a Bill Murray film.

Original music by Elmer Bernstein, which is always a good and welcome thing in a movie.

Stripes is good. I liked it. Maybe not going to rise to the top of my list of 80s comedies, but it’s definitely a solid and satisfying effort. Recommended.

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