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The One-Line Summary: After John Winger (Bill Murray) loses his job, his apartment and his girlfriend, he decides he’s got nothing left to lose and takes his best friend Russell (Harold Ramis) to the Army recruiter and signs up, heading off to boot camp at Fort Arnold where they meet a ragtag team of misfits under the command of Drill Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates), a by-the-book, tough as nails Army veteran with no patience for screwballs.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Ivan Reitman, who worked with Murray on the surprise smash Meatballs (1979) and would again (with Ramis) on Ghostbusters (1984), Stripes is an irreverent bit of lunacy that is sharp, satirical, goofy and lovable with some highly entertaining performances from an ensemble cast that feels fresh, fun and at the top of their game. But it’s Murray and Ramis that lead the charge in understated, purposefully laid back portrays that make this charming and often very funny movie such a joy to watch as they are wholly in on the joke and yet never let it get the better of them.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is about inspiration and begins with Winger never really taking the Army life to heart, starting on day one with a casual attitude that strikes Hulka the wrong way, leading to an animosity between the two that figures into the story from beginning to end. Meanwhile, the rest of the men take to Winger like moths to a flame, and this creates even more friction until Hulka eventually has enough of the antics and teaches John a valuable (and painful) lesson. But when Hulka is injured by an incompetent platoon Captain firing mortars, it leaves the squad with no leader and it’s up to Winger to rouse the men into action and prepare for the graduation drill ceremony.
The Four-Line Moment: Without Hulka, the man are left to their own devices, and seem directionless until Winger steps up and decides that it’s up to him to get this squad ready to perform. But, much like his Tripper in Meatballs having to pump up the campers to take on their rivals, Winger rallies the men with some choice words about the history of the American soldier, dogs, and the need to stop worrying about what the rules say they should do. It’s a defining moment for Winger (and Murray) as it firmly puts him “in charge” of the men and creates a situation where instead of being punished or discharged, the efforts of the soldiers, and especially Winger, earn them praise and a special assignment. What’s great is how we can easily see early hints of Dr, Venkman in Murray in this breakthrough role.
The Five-Word Review: Comedy classic that still shines.