The Pentagon Wars (1998)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Pentagon Wars</strong> (1998)

(On Cable TV, June 2013) There’s a lot to admire in the first half of The Pentagon Wars and, unfortunately, less and less to like as it goes on.  This is a somewhat unusual film that dares tackle military procurement as a comedy (!) and the beginning of the film has to do a lot of exposition (in a relatively painless fashion) to get viewers up-to-speed with the basic premise.  Cary Elwes isn’t too bad as the sometimes-bewildered officer who comes to learn the dirty history of the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, whereas Kelsey Grammer doesn’t break any typecasting as the fanatically right-wing general who slowly becomes the antagonist of the film.  The Pentagon Wars is, at first, fairly clever and generally fact-based; unfortunately, this changes in the second half of the film, as it becomes increasingly slapstick based: the script becomes steadily dumber, to the point where characters start acting like buffoons in a broader and broader (read: stupider) military comedy… much like Down Periscope, also featuring Kelsey Grammer.  The film’s visible departure from reality may lead a few viewers to investigate the real story behind the film, leading to further disenchantment with its liberties.  As it turns out, not testing the vehicle to destruction is actually a good idea when dealing with multi-million-dollar items: you get more value out of each test vehicle.  But the film’s insistence in painting everything in goofier shades of black and white ends up damaging what started out as a relatively more clever comedy.  Let’s hand it to HBO, though, for producing a film with a relatively cerebral premise, and following through with a decent budget.  The result may be disappointing, but it’s already more ambitious than many other.

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