Stripes

"Extraordinary"

Stripes Review


This sloppy but popular comedy stands just behind Bill Murray's best movies -- Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation -- in quality, but stands with them in establishing the film comedy as we now know it: irony-soaked, lowbrow, and funny. As late as the mid-'70s, too many film comedies were earnest, cute throwbacks without a single real laugh. (Thank God for Mel Brooks, who made the only consistently funny comedies of the decade.) Supposedly hilarious films like Shampoo and The Goodbye Girl (or insert another '70s comedy here... I'm having trouble remembering any of them) now seem naïve and lame -- all the more so for trying to be trendy and sophisticated. Such films tried harder to please the critics than the crowds, not by being highbrow but by being frothy.

All that was dead the moment Bill Murray threw the candy bar in the pool in Caddyshack. Critics hated Caddyshack, and called Saturday Night Live skits "mean-spirited," but for everyone else, it was finally OK to be crude, clever, offensive -- and funny. Subsequent films like Stripes, often featuring one or more cast members from SNL (Murray, et al.) or Second City TV (Harold Ramis, John Candy), set the mold. The formula hasn't needed much tweaking since then, either; the successful comedies of recent years (There's Something About Mary, American Pie, etc.) owe everything to them.

Compared to the glibness of Caddyshack or the anarchy of Animal House, Stripes may seem like something of an underachievement, but it's still a pretty funny movie. (It's a lot better than the first Murray/Ramis/Reitman collaboration, Meatballs). Lazy loser Murray can't hold down a job as a cab driver, so he and his friend (Ramis) join the Army. Their platoon is predictably full of wacky characters and their drill sergeant (Warren Oates) predictably chews Murray's butt. Then the sergeant gets wounded by friendly fire, and Murray pulls the platoon together with an appropriately stupid speech ("We're American soldiers... We're 10 and 1!"). They graduate from basic training and in a gratuitous plot turn (one of the worst third acts in movie history), they are rewarded by being shipped off to Europe to guard the Army's new "urban assault vehicle," a motor home with mounted machineguns. (Apparently screenwriter Ramis got tired of milking stock Army gags before he had filled up two hours of screen time.)

Murray's insouciant performance carries the movie and has inspired countless imitators, from the young Tom Hanks to Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell. His ever-ironic delivery made even throwaway lines ("Chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear and when I do, it's usually something unusual.") instantly quotable. Too funny to be forgotten, Stripes is still enjoyable two decades later.

The new extended cut restores 18 minutes of deleted scenes (viewable separately, as well), including P.J. Soles' soon-to-be-famous nude scene and some truly bizarre side stories. Interviews and making-of documentaries round out the disc.



Stripes

Facts and Figures

Run time: 106 mins

In Theaters: Friday 26th June 1981

Box Office Worldwide: $85.3M

Budget: $10M

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Industries

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as John Winger, as Russell Ziskey, as Sgt. Hulka, P.J. Soles as Stella Hansen, as Louise Cooper, as Dewey 'Ox' Oxberger, as Capt. Stillman, as Stillman's Aid, as Cruiser, as Col. Glass, as Anita, as Psycho, as Elmo, as Hector, Nick Toth as Border Guard

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