John Winger (Bill Murray) is a down on his luck cab driver who loses his job, car and girlfriend all in the same day. Seeing like as unfulfilling, John convinces best friend, Russell (Harold Ramis), to join him in signing up for the United States Army. Both men enlist as a bit of a joke but soon find themselves fully immersed in the intense physical and mental training that the army demands of its soldiers.
John has only just started training when he manages to annoy Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates) and this becomes the continued pattern. While the army has strict discipline in place, John continually questions authority, reasoning that getting up early and training in cold weather isn’t necessarily good for the men. John and Russell stick through the training though, helped in part by romantic interests in the form of two MPs Louise (Sean Young) and Stella (P.J. Soles). The question is will John and Russell complete the training programme and what will they do beyond the army?
If Stanley Kubrick had directed Full Metal Jacket while either drunk or high, then he might have produced a quirky little film like Stripes. Thriving thanks to another excellent performance from Bill Murray, the film is not as heavy on laughs as I was expecting, but it has such a good cast that you won’t mind too much. John Candy makes one of his earliest appearances here and demonstrates his comic potential that would be realised later in the eighties, while Ramis sports one scary hairdo at the outset that near gave me nightmares.
Stripes is an amusing and farcical comedy that sees John disrupt the established order of the military in favour of his own approach. Imagine soldiers marching to Do Wah Diddy and you get the idea of the comical revolution in place. Silly from start to finish, Stripes benefits thanks to some great performances and an excellent leading turn from Murray, who always makes it look so easy.
(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)
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