15 March 2011
It's odd watching this movie as an adult, especially as an adult with (to be perfectly honest) a lot lower tolerance for silly comedies than I had when I was a kid. So much of the movie exists just to build to weird gags and setpieces that barely work (Ramis as an ESL teacher getting his class to sing "Da Doo Ron Ron?"). The movie ends up being more charming than funny, which isn't so bad.
I once read that Bill Murray contacted Johnny Depp and warned him not to sign on to Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, because after playing Hunter S. Thompson himself, Murray felt he couldn't get the man back out of him. Rewatching Stripes, which came out the year after Where the Buffalo Roam, it's hard not to notice Murray's character Winger go into (probably ad-libbed) energetic, sharp-barbed diatribes that sound more than a little like Thompson, and he even calls people "weird mutants" twice. Make of it what you will, but I found that an interesting thought. On the subject of performance: Harold Ramis is about as good an actor here as Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld -- he tries from time to time, but he's always smirking a "hey look, I'm acting like I'm acting" kind of smirk.
Don't get me wrong. The movie is fun. I watched it, believe it or not, as part of character reference for a project I'm writing (one of the characters I have described as "Peter Venkman-like"), and I'm home sick and half out of it, so I wasn't looking for anything too challenging here. It feels a little (actually, a lot) like a smarter-than-average Police Academy movie, and even knowing it's Warren Oates in the G.W. Bailey role, I still can't see that as the hard-faced anti-hero of some of the best Pekinpah movies. (I realize Police Academy came several years later and it's very obvious that Academy was in fact pretty clearly a cheap, silly knock-off of Stripes and not the other way around, but I guess I grew up watching those fairly horrible movies more often, and between that franchise and playing basically the same character in Mannequin, G.W. Bailey really owned the role of Capt. Harris for me, I guess, even as he made it more cartoonish and one-dimensional than Oates's Sgt. Hulka.)
Anyway, a silly movie. Fun. Fairly pointless. And I still rambled endlessly about it. (Hardly shocking.)