Stripes: Extended Cut
January 14, 2006
Starring: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, Sean Young, John Candy, Judge Reinhold, John Larroquette, John Voldstad, John Diehl, Lance LeGault, Roberta Leighton, Conrad Dunn, Antone Pagan, ,
A general rule of film should be “that anything with Bill Murray in is worth a look.” That’s what Stripes brings; a comedy classic, from the early eighties, given the special edition treatment, starring Bill Murray, that is worth a look. A million miles away from Lost In Translation, Stripes shows us the beginnings of Murray’s career as a funny man and is the first step for many of the 1980s familiar faces, such as Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters), John Candy (Uncle Buck) and Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop).
Its 1981 and loser John Winger manages to lose his job, car, apartment and girlfriend in the space of a few hours. Desperate for some direction and discipline in his life, and a gimmick to meet girls, John talks his mate Ziskey into joining the army with him. Cue the most unlikely bunch of misfits to be platooned together, with hardnosed drill Sergeant Hulka, and chuck in some female military police girls and you have the comedic elements of defying authority, mischievous behavior, witty banter and a fat man trying to climb a rope. Capt. Stillman describes these men as “total fuck ups” – so perhaps sending them into war might not be the best idea.
During the first half of Stripes it’s easy to see why this became a classic. All performances are flawless. Murray’s pathetic Winger is full of empathy and bounces off well with Ramis’ Ziskey like they were old friends. The comedy and drama are seamlessly strung together with ease. The support from Candy as Ox and Warren Oates as Hulka, is downright perfect. The problem lies, in the second half. We do not spend enough time with the rest of the platoon to get to know or care about them enough when they are taken prisoner and then audiences are put through an absolutely ridiculously lame climax involving the army’s new weapon – some sort of battle caravan. The entire final act feels forced, as if the writers felt they had to mention something about war and Russians, as does the love-interest subplot, only P.J. Soles’ beauty and performance manage to make it watchable.
This special extended version includes and extra 20 minutes of previously unseen footage, most of which just makes the film longer rather than actually adding anything to the story. A scene in which Ziskey and Winger manage to stow away on a covert op and end up getting stoned with a group of Latinos in the jungle, is just plain embarrassing and the other additional material means more swearing, more nudity, more one-liners but no more laughs. Director Ivan Reitman definitely gained a lot through making Stripes and applied it to subsequent productions like Ghostbusters and Kindergarten Cop. Apart from the odd high shot or nice sunset there’s nothing overly special coming from behind the camera.
Stripes has all the right ingredients and everyone learned from the experience and went off and made better stuff afterwards. Leaving Stripes casts a shadow of the weight of the cast and crew’s legacies. The people who learnt the most though, were those guys who made Police Academy, three years later, they took the basic formula of Stripes but did it better. Wouldn’t be surprised if Stripes had lent itself to Full Metal Jacket either. It’s not Murray’s best, in fact it’s not anyone’s best and unless you have an undying urge to see John Candy jump into a mud bath a wrestle women in bikinis, you’re not missing much.
Not bad bunch of extras. The commentary from Reitman is very friendly and the two making of/interviews packages entitled, “Stars and Stripes Part One” and “Stars and Stripes Part Two” are ok. Mostly praise for Bill Murray and retelling the story, but these interviews were filmed in 2003, so at least there’s a reflective look back at Stripes. They even managed a rare interview with Bill Murray filmed whilst on set for Lost in Translation.