Stripes (1981) — Slackers join the army and go to war

“Chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear and when I do it’s usually something unusual.”

Nancy’s rating: Five out of five unique pieces of undergarment

Nancy’s review: Short of Ghostbusters, this film is so far the only one that came out of the Bill Murray Crusade (my crusade to see all Bill Murray movies) that jumped out of my television scream, slapped me in the face and said, “Why have you not seen me before?!” And I’ll be honest with you right now; upon renting it, I wasn’t super-ecstatic. This film came as a buy-one, get-one double feature alongside Meatballs, which I was super-ecstatic about (Bill Murray summer camp movie? Huzza, I say!) Stripes was merely something to take off my to-do list.

My presumptions were horribly wrong, my friends. Horribly, horribly wrong.

Stripes is the tale of straight-up lazy cab driver John Winger and his similarly slackerly charming pal Russell, played by Harold Ramis. (Yeah, that’s right. Egon shines incandescently here, by far the coolest character he’s ever played. Not that I don’t love the dorkface routine he pulls off in Ghostbusters, but here he is charming, slightly smooth while still retaining nerdiness, and just so cool.)

Notice the introductions to both of these characters; they’re brilliant. They immediately established John and Russell as really likeable. THAT’S the word I need. Likeable. These two friends are so incredibly likeable that you’re immediately sucked into their world perceptions and you believe them when they tell you they are handsome.

So upon his girlfriend leaving (“All the plants are gonna die!”), quitting his job (in the most badass fashion I can imagine) and having nothing to do but share eclectic banter with Russell, John makes the decision that the best thing for BOTH of them to do is join the army. So they sign up, alter the establishment with wit, hit on the ladies, and party party party all the time.

John declares himself leader of this ragtag team of hopeful soldiers, and together they take on the Man, who happens to be a drill sergeant, the most fun and exciting Man to take on! Yes, okay, it’s formulaic, but like all old movies, it only appears formulaic because it’s been copied so many times. It was probably quite fresh in 1981. I wouldn’t know, I was negative seven.

So the actors portraying the characters are amazing, but the characters themselves are just really cool. Even the two love interests, Stella and Louise, could be thrown into the category of excess ho-bag, but they were developed enough and hey, wow, they turned out to be wicked cool as well. And Sgt. Hulka, along with having a name that is way fun to say (hulka! huuuulka! HuLK-AAA! wahoo), is a funny antagonist to John. John and Russell themselves are so sincere despite their kookiness.

It’s a classic Bill Murray role: jokingly egotistical but you don’t even mind because he’s hilarious! And I’m glad Russell gets significant jokes and screen time, as opposed to being just a mere second fiddle to The Murray Man (yes, I think I’ll call him The Murray Man from now on). Well, let’s not lie, he IS the second fiddle to Bill Murray, but that is one loud fiddle with a lot of a hilarity crammed in there! Their friendship is adorable.

One of the few flaws in this film is that it could have been developed more. Granted that would make it a straight-up buddy flick (which it’s not; if my review gives that impression it’s because that friendship is my favorite aspect of this movie) but the quirky friendship is where the movie really shines. And what’s wrong with a straight-up buddy flick?!?

Come to think of it, these characters seem more real then in any other buddy flick I can think of. This would have been a superb buddy flick! I’m actually getting a little angry for what this could have been. This could have been the DEFINITIVE buddy flick! It would have ruled! It would have said “HEY! Hey Easy Rider! EAT THIS!” All films with two pals in it would henceforth be compared to it! “Well, it was good, but it didn’t have the Real-Guy charm of Stripes. And Kumar is NOTHING compared to The Murray Man”. (I love to say that).

So anyway. Maybe it could have been much much more, but perhaps I am too needy of a film viewer. Nonetheless, the antics never fail to put a bright bright smile of my face. So if you love cool, eclectic comedy with The Murray Man Twist, rent this today. Don’t be a skeptical loser like Nancy. Learn from my mistakes.

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