Movie Name: Stripes
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Release Date(s): June 26, 1981
MPAA Rating: R
John Winger (Bill Murray) is having a bad week. He’s lost his job and his girlfriend. When Winger convinces his friend Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis) to enlist, the army might have met their match. Winger, Ziskey, and their rest of their squad all are losers that their leader Sgt. Hulka (Warren Oates) are trying to whip into shape. When Winger and Ziskey’s gags go too far, they might have to become the soldiers that the army needs to prevent a war.
Directed by Ivan Reitman, Stripes is a war comedy. The movie was originally intended to be a Cheech and Chong movie, but the movie was retooled when Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong demanded creative control over the project. The movie was well received by critics and was a box office smash.
I can remember having a copy of Stripes that had been taped off of cable and watching it multiple times. The movie (like Police Academy) had nudity and sex laughs way above what I understood at the time, but the basic comedy of the movie was very universal. Rewatching Stripes as an adult, the humor I found as a kid holds up while the adult jokes are even funnier.
The movie is pretty typical in its format. Like Private Benjamin or Police Academy, the cadets are forced to shape up and end up representing the United States in a positive way. The army is treated like a joke most of the movie but the characters become unlikely heroes at the end. The writing however is strong and the wordplay by the leads make the basic mediocre plot much, much better.
Ramis and Murray are a great duo, and I wish that they had done more onscreen pairing instead of just this and the Ghostbuster films. They are joined by a great supporting cast with P.J. Soles and Sean Young as the romantic leads and John Candy, John Diehl, Conrad Dunn, and Judge Reinhold as fellow privates. The movie also features John Larroquette as the “bad guy” leader and small appearances by Joe Flaherty, Timothy Busfield, and Bill Paxton.
The movie is rather typical ’80s R-Rated comedy. There is nudity and dirty jokes. It is what you want and expect from a comedy and since it is written smarter than some of the other similar comedies, it doesn’t seem quite as gratuitous…it borderlines a sex romp comedy.
Stripes is a fun movie that has stood the test of time. The comedy has achieved cult status and like movies like Caddyshack is frequently quoted by fans. It had been years since I had seen the film but it was great to revisit and remember…and that’s the fact, Jack!