John Voldstad

John Voldstad

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Stripes Review


Extraordinary
This sloppy but popular comedy stands just behind Bill Murray's best movies -- Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation -- in quality, but stands with them in establishing the film comedy as we now know it: irony-soaked, lowbrow, and funny. As late as the mid-'70s, too many film comedies were earnest, cute throwbacks without a single real laugh. (Thank God for Mel Brooks, who made the only consistently funny comedies of the decade.) Supposedly hilarious films like Shampoo and The Goodbye Girl (or insert another '70s comedy here... I'm having trouble remembering any of them) now seem naïve and lame -- all the more so for trying to be trendy and sophisticated. Such films tried harder to please the critics than the crowds, not by being highbrow but by being frothy.

All that was dead the moment Bill Murray threw the candy bar in the pool in Caddyshack. Critics hated Caddyshack, and called Saturday Night Live skits "mean-spirited," but for everyone else, it was finally OK to be crude, clever, offensive -- and funny. Subsequent films like Stripes, often featuring one or more cast members from SNL (Murray, et al.) or Second City TV (Harold Ramis, John Candy), set the mold. The formula hasn't needed much tweaking since then, either; the successful comedies of recent years (There's Something About Mary, American Pie, etc.) owe everything to them.

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