Stripes (1981)

(On DVD, June 2017) I don’t yet have enough points of reference to make a definitive statement, but in-between movies such as Caddyshack, Meatballs, Police Academy, many others and now Stripes, there’s a very specific strain of early-eighties underdog comedy in which the institutions of American life (golf, summer camp, police, the military) are brought down to size by unrepentant slackers. Bill Murray leads Stripes with his early brand of nonchalant anarchism, taking a stand against the madness by defeating it with a complete lack of care. Stripes’ curiously ambiguous attitude toward military training is interesting: While its most ridiculous aspects are lampooned, it is a film made with the co-operation of the Army, and it does suggest that the end result can be incredibly rewarding for the right people. By the end, the slackers are defeating the Reds and rescuing their own. In-between, we do have a remarkable rah-rah-RAH sequence in which audiences are reminded that they are American and thus exceptional, and a weird-yet-expected shift from aimless sketch training comedy to more focused last-act suspense. The DNA match with Caddyshack is obvious with Murray and Harold Ramis sharing top billing, and Ivan Reitman handling directing duties. Stripes is messy by modern standards, but it’s not without its own charm.

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