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Sgt. Bilko is based upon the old television show called Sgt. Bilko (also You'll Never Get Rich and later, if memory serves, The Phil Silvers Show) and, as always, Cranky does not make comparisons to source material. But he will make comparisons to the other military spoof movie to come out this year, Down Periscope (starring Kelsey Grammar). Both movies gratefully acknowledge the non-cooperation of the military branch that they spoof, only Bilko does so in larger letters, and without any flatulation jokes.
I've written it before and I'll do so again. I greatly prefer movies made by TV people because they have no pretensions and set out to entertain. Period. Which is what Bilko does.
Master Scammer, sorry, Sergeant Ernest Bilko (Steve Martin) runs the casino, sorry, motor pool at Fort Baxter. He also runs the gambling pools, lotteries, raffles and every fixed scheme and con game on the post, which is run by the totally blind-sided Dan Ackroyd. Bilko's sole enemy is Lieutenant Thorne (Phil Hartman), an inadvertent victim of a Bilko fixed boxing match at Fort Dix many years earlier. Thorne comes to Ft. Baxter on an inspection tour, discovers Bilko's presence, and stays to wreak revenge.
Bilko has two weaknesses -- the love of his life, the oft-left at the altar civilian named Rita, and gambling. So Thorne weaves his wiles on the lovely Rita (Glenn Headly) and gets Bilko sent away on desert maneuvers, conveniently located a mere 15 miles from Las Vegas. That way, a couple of by-the-book military inspectors (including Saturday Night Live's Chris Rock) can get a look at Bilko's records and, hopefully, bring the man down.
Sgt. Bilko utilizes a theme at least as old as, oh, the television program. Bilko runs a con. He gets caught, and must run an even bigger scam to get out of it. Always part of the scam are his men, the biggest load of misfits this-man's-army has ever seen. Despite the efforts made to make the supporting characters identifiable, none are, save perhaps Max Casella, who you should recognize from TV's Doogie Howser M.D., and the fat one (Eric Edwards plays Doberman -- I looked it up).
Kick up one support level and you may know Daryl Mitchell (Chill on TV's John Laroquette Show), Bilko's new, and still by-the-book, man. There could be a question of loyalty built into the story here; the by-the-book army guy and the by-the-book army inspectors versus Bilko's crew, but there isn't. Except for one or two lines of quickly forgotten dialog.
Bilko is a simple comedy. Which means that you won't miss much if you have to step out for a minute to relieve yourself of the extra large Coke and popcorn for a dollar off combo you may have purchased on the way in. There are no jokes about body parts or functions which, soberingly enough, doesn't make it as funny as Down Periscope.
But it is just about as entertaining (and one day I'll figure out EXACTLY what that means. But not today...) Steve Martin does the Steve Martin thing. Hartman's the mean slash vindictive type he so artfully developed on Saturday Night Live (also similar to SNL, a character named Ebersole. Coincidence? Hmmm . . .)
Everybody has a good time, and so did the kidlets (most age 4 and up) in the audience. If you're a parent, there's nothing here you have to hide from, and very little that you may need to explain to your kids.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Sgt. Bliko, he would have paid . . .
Yeah, well, I DID laugh more at Down Periscope. Either way, you'll be entertained.
But beware of the extra large soda. What you miss may be worth that extra buck . . .
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