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Laramie Movie Scope: Sgt. Bilko

Loud, unfunny comedy based on TV series

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 1, 1996 -- ``Sgt. Bilko,'' the latest Steve Martin comedy, marched into town to the beat of an old television show theme.

Those of you who are old enough to remember the television show of the same name starring Phil Silvers, know the basic plot of the movie. The film continues the recent trend of making old television shows into new movies that look old. Sgt. Ernie Bilko (Martin) runs the motor pool in a military base on its last legs. The only hope for the base, run by the none-too-bright Colonel Hall (played by a sleepwalking Dan Aykroyd), is an experimental tank that hovers on a cushion of air.

Will Bilko finally marry often stood-up fiance Rita Robbins (Glenne Headly) and will he save the base from the cut list? Of course he will, but how? That's the plot.

The movie does have its moments, but it seems more like a made-for-tv movie than a theatrical release. The writing, by Andy Breckman, is uneven and the humor is spotty. The acting is barely adequate. Steve Martin does a fairly good job of balancing Bilko's dishonesty with his basic goodness.

Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live is believable as the evil Major Thorn, who not only plants false evidence against Bilko (as if Bilko didn't violate enough military regulations on his own) but he tries to steal his fiance too! Boo! Hiss! This is the kind of comedy that substitutes loudness for humor. If a joke isn't funny, you YELL the lines, and if that doesn't work, use an explosion. There is lots of yelling. This lame film makes Martin's previous efforts like "The Jerk" and "The Man With Two Brains" look brilliant by comparison.

If this film makes money, can ``F Troop,'' ``Hogan's Heroes'' and ``McHale's Navy'' be far behind? Let's hope not. This film rates a D.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)