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on June 11, 2001
In one of his funniest comedies, Bill Murray takes on the U.S. Army, and without question, with guys like this on the front lines, we can all sleep a little easier at night. "Stripes," directed by Ivan Reitman, is the story of John Winger (Murray), who in one day loses his girl, his job, his car and his apartment. So what's a guy to do after that, but join the Army? But he doesn't go alone, oh no-- he also talks his best friend, Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis) into joining with him. And just like that they find themselves at boot camp, face to face with one of the most formidable Drill Instructors every to grace the silver screen, Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates), and surrounded by as motley a group of raw recruits as anyone could imagine. Among them, there's Dewey Oxburger (John Candy), known as "Ox," who plans to emerge from boot camp a "lean, mean fighting machine"; and "Cruiser (John Diehl)," who joined up to beat the draft (Hulka: "Son, there isn't a draft, anymore." Cruiser: "There was one?"); and Francis Soyer (George Jenesky), known as "Psycho" ("Call me Francis, and I'll kill you. Touch my stuff, and I'll kill you. Touch me...and I'll kill you." Hulka: "Lighten up, Francis...").
The pressure is on for Hulka and his men, when Colonel Glass (Lance LeGault) informs Captain Stillman (John Larroquette) that the "General" is looking for a squad of crack new recruits to man a special project, and Hulka's boys have been chosen. The project involves a secret weapon, an "urban assault" vehicle, that is to be unveiled on their base in Germany shortly. But first, Hulka has to get his troops through basic, which will be a minor miracle in itself, even though Winger goes "Out on a limb," and offers to be their leader. And things proceed just as badly as you would expect, not only on the obstacle course, but off, when Winger and Ziskey get mixed up with a couple of female M.Ps., Stella (P.J. Soles) and Louise (Sean Young), and Ox gets coerced (by Winger, of course) into taking part in a female mud-wrestling event at a local night spot.
Along the way, Reitman sets up the situations for some serious laughs, and keeps it all on track with a good pace and excellent timing. Murray is terrific as Winger, with a performance that puts a generous helping of "dry" in the expression "dry humor." He plays it all so straight, so serious, from his quips and one liners (watching a TV promo for the Army, "This looks pretty good--"), to his full blown inspirational speech to the troops on the night before their final test at basic training ("We're all very different people. We're not Spartans, we're not Watusi, we're Americans, with a capital 'A.' That means our forefathers were thrown out of every decent country in the world--"), that it makes it all the more hilarious. He never tries to be "funny," or fish for laughs, which is really what makes this movie work so well. Murray is perhaps the best in the business at playing this kind of humor and putting it across (Ben Stiller would be a close second).
Harold Ramis and John Candy also make invaluable contributions that make this one fly. Watch Ramis, reacting to what Candy is saying as "Ox," as explains why he joined the Army; it makes what Ox is saying twice as funny. And Ox, talking about what a "shy guy" he is, and how "You may have noticed, I have this weight problem--" And Oates, as well, gives a singular performance that makes Hulka a real person, beyond the typical stereotype of the hard-nosed D.I. His portrayal, taken out of context, is one that would stand up even in more serious fare, like Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket."
The supporting cast includes Judge Reinhold (Elmo), John Voldstad (Stillman's Aide), Roberta Leighton (Anita), Antone Pagan (Hector), Fran Ryan (Dowager in Cab), Dave Thomas (M.C.) and William Lucking (Recruiter). From beginning to end, "Stripes" is a fun-filled laugh riot that's filled with memorable scenes and a plethora of lines you'll be quoting forever. This is one you can watch over and over again, with a bunch of characters you're never going to forget. Winger and Ziskey, Ox, Psycho, Cruiser. These are the guys who Demi Moore, as Galloway in "A Few Good Men," could have been talking about when, in response to the question of why she likes these guys so much, replies, "Because they stand on a wall, and they say nothing is going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch..." It kind of makes you think. Or, as Cruiser might say, "Yeah... About what?"
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on June 21, 2004
I'm a bit perplexed by the reviews criticizing this movie because of its unrealistic depiction of the Army. Do these same people complain that "Animal House" doesn't accurately display college life or that "Vacation" isn't what a family trip across the country is really like? (Hey, I live in St. Louis and could easily take exception to the outright offensive inaccuracies in "Vacation", but I still love the movie!) This is a comedy, folks. It's not "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers", and it never claims or tries to be. It uses exaggeration and absurdities to make us laugh. It isn't striving for realism, although to its credit, I have heard plenty of people say that this is the best movie they've ever seen at giving you the feel for what its like going into the service, and that their own drill instructor was identical to Sgt Hulka.
The first half of this movie is just about the funniest comedy ever made. Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are the perfect slobs with shiftless lives who try to maintain what's left of their dignity by enlisting in the Army. Their chemistry is wonderful and they truly are believable as out-of-shape but likable losers. Virtually every line and every character is memorable (Psycho, Ox, Cruiser, that lady in the cab, John Laroquette, and of course Russell and Winger), and this has to be the most quotable movie in history. No, John Candy would not have spoken to a superior officer that way when he gets off the bus (or at least not have gotten away with it), but that's what's so funny about it! And speaking of Sgt. Hulka, Warren Oates should have been given an Oscar nomination for this role. He's the high point of the movie for me, and his intense, over the top performance reminds me of Robert Shaw in "Jaws"- some actors are so good that they can chew scenery and get away with it. So for the first half of the movie, there's not an unfunny moment. Maybe basic training isn't like this, but the scenes are so well-done that a generation of adolescent guys has grown up thinking that it is and have no doubt gone into the military with this movie in the back of their minds.
The second half of the movie sort of devolves into a bearable but not great action movie, with its contrived plot about the stolen military RV and the rescue mission across the Czech border. Still, the same characters are present and continue to sustain the movie until the end. Great music, too- I don't think this has ever been issued as a soundtrack but it contains one of the most memorable themes ever written for a movie.
The DVD itself is passable- no extras, somewhat grainy video, unspectacular sound. But we surived watching it over and over again on basic cable with plenty of edits and subpar picture quality, so I can't complain too much. I suppose someday it will be given a "Special Edition" with a commentary and a retrospective from the stars, but the movie stands on its own without anything fancy.
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on January 20, 2004
Apparently some of the previous reviewers don't understand that Stripes is a C-O-M-E-D-Y...i.e. it doesn't have to represent the army, but rather need only be humorous. Mission accomplished--it's ridiculously hilarious. Directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, John Larroquette, and Judge Reinhold, Stripes may very well be the prototypic 80's comedy. If you haven't seen the film you're doing yourself a grave disservice. At the very least, rent the movie and judge for yourself.
Brief synopsis: John (Murray) and Russell (Ramis) are two disillusioned friends who join the army on a whim to escape their dead-end jobs and to be all they can be. Grouped with a collection of psychopaths and fellow num-nuts they proceed to stumble through boot camp. When their drill-sergeant is injured during training exercises, John assumes leadership of this military version of the Bad News Bears. Thrown into the mix, you have two attractive MPs, mud wrestling, a classified covert combat-ready recreational vehicle, and Sean Young before she went loopy.
please, see this movie and make the world a little happier
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on August 18, 2003
STRIPES, the best service comedy of the 80's, was released during Bill Murray's halcyon career years (1979-1984), and has moments of absolute lunacy and imagination, faltering only during the last third of the film. A showcase for many rising stars (Harold Ramis, John Candy, John Larroquette, Sean Young, Judge Reinhold) and featuring Warren Oates' funniest performance on film, it nevertheless is primarily Murray's show, and he delivers, brilliantly!
As an arrogant but likable loser who thrives on twisting the 'rules' to suit him, Murray combines physical humor, sly one-liners, and an anti-establishment point of view to establish himself as the logical successor to the anarchists of ANIMAL HOUSE. His character, John Winger, is not only a jerk, but charismatic enough to make being a smartass desirable! After losing his girl, his job, his home, and even his pizza ("Then depression set in," he announces), he sees a TV commercial for the Army, and convinces his friend Russell Ziskey (sweetly played by Harold Ramis), an English language teacher who's better at teaching cuss words to his students than English, to drop everything and enlist with him.
Basic is a challenge for Winger, as the Army expects him to be a soldier! In a unit comprised of idiots, psychopaths, potheads, and an overweight recruit who enlisted to "shed a few pounds" in a 'Club Med'-style environment (John Candy, who is very funny), Winger immediately attempts to take charge, only to be put down by gruff drill instructor, Sgt. Hulka (Warren Oates), who is wise to all of Winger's scams. Not that this interferes with Winger and Ziskey's social life; the pair soon have MP girlfriends (P.J. Soles and Sean Young) sharing trysts in the General's quarters!
The film's highlight occurs after Sgt. Hulka is incapacitated by an exploding grenade. Faced with having to start basic training all over again, Winger coaches the unit overnight in HIS kind of drill for the final Review and Parade. Unfortunately, everyone then oversleeps, and arrive at the Parade Ground in all manner of dress. Winger's unorthodox marching routines are a hit, however, and the General, thinking he is watching a crack outfit, addresses Winger in one of the funniest exchanges ever recorded on film!
GENERAL: Where's your Sergeant?
WINGER: Blowed up, Sir!
UNIT: Blowed up, Sir!
GENERAL: You mean you trained YOURSELVES?
WINGER: That's the FACT, jack!
UNIT: That's the FACT, jack!
Unfortunately, STRIPES doesn't end with this brilliant piece of insanity, but moves to Europe, where the unit is assigned to guard an attack vehicle that looks suspiciously like an RV. While there are a few amusing moments in this final chapter of the film, it lacks the inspired madness of basic training, and drags, a bit, until the famous 'Magazine Cover' postscript.
All in all, STRIPES is a memorable, if flawed near-classic, and paved the way for Murray and Ramis' blockbuster, GHOSTBUSTERS. If you're a Bill Murray or service comedy fan, it should DEFINITELY be in your collection!
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on July 31, 2003
Ah, back in the days when the cast from Saturday Night Live went off and actually made quality movies. Maybe it's seeing this film through nostalgic eyes, but Stripes has aged quite well over the years as a prime vehicle for Bill Murray's comedic talents. No one quite mugs or delivers dialogue in such a funny, deadpan manner as Murray does in Stripes (except maybe the king of deadpan deliveries, Chevy Chase in Fletch).
There are just so many classic bits in this film. From Murray's hilarious cab drive with a snooty lady ("I just wish I hadn't had all that cough syrup!") to his girlfriend leaving him ("All the plants are gonna die!") to hooking up with his best friend played perfectly by a young Harold Ramis (when he was thinner!). The give and take between the two of them is so well done (Ramis: My blood is on your hands. Murray: Just don't get any on my shoes.) and incredibly funny.
Essentially, this is Private Benjamin but with Murray and Ramis as the leads and it still works so well and stands as probably the best military comedy to date (forget Major Payne or that Pauley Shore film). You've got a killer cast that includes the late, great John Candy (as the lovable oaf, Ox), a young, pre-Beverly Hills Cop, Judge Reinhold, John Laroquette, lovely young ladies, Sean Young and P.J. Soles, and last but not least, Warren Oates as the nasty Drill Sergeant Hulka. He's what really makes the film so great because he acts as the perfect antagonist for Murray. He doesn't take Murray's B.S. and gives as good as he gets. The scenes between them are priceless.
However, the film does suffer from a weak last third. The film really should have ended after Murray and co.'s successful inspection. The stuff in Europe feels padded and added on and just isn't as strong as the first 2/3rds of the movie. Having said that, there are some amusing bits to be had in the last chunk of the film, it's just that they aren't as good.
This is vintage Bill Murray at his finest. Definitely worth adding to your collection.
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on May 19, 2003
The first time I watched this movie, I wondered, "What's the big deal?" But then I gave it another chance, and it began to grow on me. It's now one of the indispensables in my collection.
John Winger is an underachieving slob who has lost his job, his car and his girlfriend all in the course of a single morning. His somewhat unorthodox solution is to join the army and bring a friend with him.

Bill Murray has insincerity down to an art form, as the smart-aleck Winger who clashes with the hard case Sergeant Hulka from day one. John Candy and Harold Ramis lead a great supporting cast that makes up Winger's platoon full of losers. John Larroquette also performs well as the idiot base commander who is more interested in chasing women than managing his responsibilities.
From the beginning, Winger is a square peg in a round hole, and while his friends like him (sort of), the people in authority certainly don't. Winger does, however, have a certain magnetism as an individual who is willing to challenge authority, and becomes the "leader" of the platoon when Sergeant Hulka is injured in a training accident. Predictably (yet hilariously), the platoon comes together and pulls off a wonderful performance at their graduation, earning them a choice assignment, which they promptly screw up, and then turn themselves into heroes.
While certainly not a classic of the american cinema, this movie is a classic of '80s comedy, and should be welcomed into any DVD collection, especially for [the item price].
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on January 8, 2003
This is one of my favorite films of all time. I saw it with a boatload of fellow geology students at the end of a gruelling summer field camp in Montana and when Harold Ramis made his crack about passing 2 semesters of geology in one night it brought the house down. You don't have to be a geologist to appreciate this flick though, it's got laughs galore. Great stuff.
My objective in writing the review is to beef about the DVD. The big fat mono soundtrack is pretty dismal. I have to crank the volume to the max to watch it, then it sounds distorted and hissy. My biggest beef is with the "widescreen" version of the film. It appears to be just the fullscreen version with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. I discovered this by examining the shower scene that Captain Sillman watches through his telescope. On the fullscreen side you can see the one of the girls' head and legs down to the knees. On the "widescreen" version you have extactly the same width of view and her head and buns are cut off by the black bars. Boo-hiss.
A classic flick like this deserves a much better DVD!
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on April 8, 2002
While the Cold War setting of this movie may be a bit dated, the humor is still fresh and hilarious. This movie has a great cast featuring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Sean Young, John Laroquette, Judge Reinhold, and others, when they were relative nobodies. Well, some of them are still nobodies, but in any case... this movie is non-stop laughter! Murray and Ramis are great as a couple of losers who join the Army out of sheer desperation with their dead-end lives. They join up with a company of misfits and freaks with a hard-[corps] drill sergeant, played by Warren Oates in a comedic version of R. Lee Ermey's future role in Full Metal Jacket. The implausibility skyrockets as these fools somehow manage to fall in love, pass basic training, get assigned to guard a top-secret assault video, invade Eastern Europe, and defeat hordes of Commies. Still, what is classic 80's comedy without ridiculous situations such as these? It is a hilarious and completely frivolous movie, but filled with classic lines from Murray and non-stop laughter. Right up there with Caddyshack in the pantheon of goofy comedies, and definitely a few notches above the similarly themed Cold War comedy Spies Like Us. It is no Dr. Strangelove, but it was never meant to be. If you want to see Murray & Co. at the height of their abilities, look no further.
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on October 29, 2001
Every great comic has developed a screen persona that no one else can emulate. Bill Murray is in this elite league of comic actors, thanks to his trademark sarcasm and keen wit, and no other sequence in any of his films sums up his talents as well as the opening scenes in Stripes. His character loses his job, his girlfriend and his apartment all in one day, which prompts him to join the army with his best friend (Harold Ramis). It's his nonchalant attitude, however, that makes these scenes hilarious. Murray has always winked to the audiences in his films, and that is what makes him the greatest comedic actor of his generation.
The rest of Stripes holds up pretty strongly to these early scenes, at least for the most part. There are great supporting characters played by Ramis, John Larroquette and especially Warren Oates as the token drill seargent. But this is Murray's show from beginning to end. He's a genius with verbal comedy, which is in full display here. And Stripes itself remains one of the cornerstones of slob comedy. Like the best of these films (Animal House, Caddyshack), the writing and dialogue are a lot sharper and more satirical than they need to be, and that is what separates Stripes from the likes of Porky's and Police Academy.
The film eventually falls flat, though, in its final scenes. There was no need to place these band of misfits well inside the frontlines of the Cold War, making them superheroes. Just getting through basic training was accomplishment enough for them, and the movie should've ended there. The ludicrous finale doen't dampen the rest of the film much, though, and Stripes remains one of the funnier comedies of the 1980s.
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on March 8, 2001
In one atypical morning, loser Murray loses his job, car, apartment, and girlfriend. This was pretty much his own doing, and since one stupid move deserves another, he and pal Ramis enlist in the army. His whole platoon is comprised of misfits,who give drill sergeant Warren Oates a run for his money. But when he's injured during basic training, Murray leads the platoon in completing basic training by themselves. This captures the attention of the general, who decides that these go-getters must be assigned to a special mission in Italy. The assignment in question is the EM-50, a killing machine disguised as an RV. Murray and Ramis, while on post, decide to take it for a little joyride. This results in the rest of their platoon being captured and held behind the iron curtain. Murray and a reluctant Ramis set off to rescue their counterparts. Very funny start to finish, with a hilarious scene in a mud wrestling club. Great supporting cast includes John Larroquette, John Candy, Judge Reinhold, and P.J. Soles. Screenwriter Ramis shines in his first on camera role. A welcome member of the "Animal House" genre.
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