Stripes (1981) – Another Bill Murray Classic

Director: Ivan Reitman

Writers: Len Blum, Dan Goldberg, and Harold Ramis 

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For the first two acts of this film, I was like “Man, another great throwback Bill Murray comedy! I cannot stop laughing!” Which of course was all true, but for some reason, the third act became a straight-up war film. Some viewers will absolutely hate this narrative shift, but for me personally, I kind of respect that the filmmakers threw caution into the wind and did whatever the heck they wanted in the final 20 minutes. But hey, to each his own.

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In terms of the film’s technical aspects, it was shot and edited far better than was necessary. The camera movements and framing devices were nifty, and the pacing was handled well for the majority of the runtime. The score from Elmer Bernstein evoked campy war film vibes, which was the exact intent. And even the production design and authentic practical effects were impressive, considering the overall comedic focus of the story.

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The notorious RV in “Stripes.”

Bill Murray is undoubtedly a national treasure, with humor ranging from subtle quips and mannerisms, to over-the-top physical comedy and unrestrained expressiveness. Also entering the fray are Harold Ramis and John Candy, each bringing a signature charisma to the table which could never be replicated. It is worth mentioning however that some of the humor has dated rather poorly, with some blatant misogyny and homophobia, but this “politically-incorrect” humor is the exception, not the rule, in regard to the feature as a whole.

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L-R: Murray, Candy, and Ramis at the forefront. 

Comprehensively, “Stripes” is a solid way to spend a relaxing evening or afternoon if you want some laughs with a shot of thrills and excitement. You may or may not have a wildly different reaction to the third act than I did, but the first two acts are worth a look in their own right. Give this one a chance if you like schnitzel made from schnauzers.

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