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Monday, September 26, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 76 - In The Army Now (1994)

Pauly Shore makes his first of several appearances on this list with In the Army Now, in which he gives his best performance.  Wow, that’s an amazing assessment of his performance in this film.  The plot centers around two slackers (Pauly Shore and, as if he weren’t annoying enough, Andy Dick) who are desperate for money and opt for enlisting into the Army thinking it would be a piece of cake.  In basic training they meet a gung-ho girl played by Lori Petty (who also reappears on this list later) and an excessively phobic man who is trying to face his fears (David Alan Grier).  Both of these additional characters only make the movie louder and more annoying.

During basic training the two narcissistic leads constantly get into trouble until finally getting whipped into shape by a female drill sergeant and shipped over to Chad where their actions as a water treatment crew (Shore’s character’s choice because his brother was a pool boy), lead to a small victory for America.  Between this there are a ton of military stereotypes and bad genre cliches executed with no admiration or inspiration.  

Pauly Shore is a special type of bad actor.  He gives the very same performance in every movie, with his whiny, over-inflecting and his stupid So-Cal slang, he annoys instead of engages.  In most of his movies he contrasts with more subdued performers so we can see how “zany” he is.  In this film, Andy Dick (who’s voice is equally annoying if not more so), is meant to be the voice of reason but his character is just as stupid and insipid as Shore’s.  Therefore, we have to lean on the other two characters, played by Petty and Grier (who are insane in their own right), for a connection to the story.  This is bad, because as there’s nothing there to connect us to these characters, we have no stake in caring about any of them.

In good war films like Platoon, we see an evolution of the main character dropped into a life he is frightened and angered by.  We can see the atrocities on screen and relate to the moral conflict in the hearts of the leads.  This also goes for the Deer Hunter, another affective film about Vietnam, where we witness the after-effects of the devastating impact of war on a man.  In both of these cases we relate, and can see a sort of “before and after” to show how these characters evolved and changed.  In The Army Now more or less makes war out to be a joke, and the only evolution we see is pointed out to us when Shore’s character’s girlfriend notices his abs.  This movie is shallow and, to the extent that it diminishes the impact of war and the strength and honor of our military, offensive.

I may be reading into this movie a little too much on an emotional level though.  Therefore, I will say that artistically, this is a sloppy movie.  The film is divided into the typical war movie segments: life before, enlistment, basic training, after training, battle, victory for the good guys.  However, it doesn’t really get any of these things right.  The basic training is filmed in a confined, closed-quarters fashion, only showing the star’s faces distinctly amidst a bevy of nameless and faceless recruits who do not get any lines because they are not on the film’s poster.  The desert war scenes are equally cramped, lacking depth or any natural feel.  For a setting that is meant to resemble the Sahara Desert, these scenes definitely feel as though they were filmed on a sound stage.  This movie feels tiny, despite its attempt at scale.  With a troupe of only four soldiers central to the plot, very little discernible resemblance to reality, annoying leads and very unfunny jokes this movie is a dud.  It fails at being both a comedy and a war film because it approaches both of these genres incorrectly.

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