Review Date: October 11, 1998
Director: Mike Nichols
Writer: Neil Simon
Producers: Ray Stark
Penelope Ann Miller
Story follows one Eugene Morris Jerome, an insecure, highly-observant wannabee writer, and virgin, from New York, over his ten-week World War II boot camp trial in Biloxi, Mississippi . Several divergent young recruits highlight his group of trainees, as well as an abusive drill sergeant who will stop at nothing to discipline this na´ve set of youths. Many rites of passages and lessons of life are entertained during this unsure time of their lives.
Interesting, playful comedy covers most bases of youthful exuberance and insecurity, offers a terrific performance by Christopher Walken as the highly unstable drill sergeant, but ultimately does nothing to reinvent the boot camp Army flic genre. This movie's strongest points of consideration are its witty and well-skewered lines delivered via the pen of writer extraordinaire, Neil Simon, and the fascinating exhibition delivered by Christopher Walken, in one of his best roles of his career. Most of the characters in this film play caricatures of this period, but as a whole, the gang worked on the platform on which they were asked to perform, and many of their presentations were top-notch. Corey Parker was particularly outstanding as the arrogant, outspoken, Jewish recruit who delivered one of the most poignant and relevant lines for me as a writer, "Once you start compromising your thoughts, you're a candidate for mediocrity." Great line!
The style of the film does not offer us much more than any other film of its genre, and the soundtrack could also have used a giant boost, but overall, the film does deliver many laughs, some decent performances, and a pretty intense scene between Walken and Broderick nearing its finish. Also, I have always been a fan of epilogues, so I did enjoy this one as well, but will admit that it did turn out to be a little too schmaltzy if you really think about it. But most of all, it is the idiosyncratic and genuine performance by Christopher Walken that solidified this movie for me. He delivered all of his lines with extreme coolness and pinache, and drew out a perfect scene as the drunk sergeant on the brink of sanity. If you liked him in TRUE ROMANCE (10/10) and AT CLOSE RANGE, you'll love him in this wonderfully unhinged achievement.
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian