Renaissance Man (1994)

"It's the sound of hell." - Danny DeVito's reaction to four a.m. PT

This is the Army?  Clean-talking, soft-spoken drill sergeants?  Cadence
calling to the tune of "Tiny Bubbles?" Has Disney transformed our
nation's fighting force into a pack of PC professionals?

Or, in the case of RENAISSANCE MAN, not-so-professionals.

The eight recruits assigned to ad-man-turned-teacher Bill Rago (Danny
Devito) are bottom-of-the-barrel at best. They can't even think on their
feet and won't complete basic training without some much-needed brain
food.  In comes Rago, a civilian instructor who discovers in his
students a hankering for "Hamlet."

Think DEAD POETS SOCIETY-in-fatigues. Director Penny Marshall-- who
specializes in these squishy, celluloid hugs-- serves up sterile
soldiers in a super-safe story with a happy happy ending for everyone.
Suspense?  At ease.  Even DeVito gets a late-entry love-interest in this
one. Puh-lease.

Sugar content notwithstanding, RENAISSANCE MAN *is* watchable. The humor
is good and anyone with a military background can savor such succulant
bits as DeVito getting directions from a base guard. Of course, any
Army-as-a-way-of-life film is amusing when poking fun at the retentive
rigidity of military command.

The film's characterizations are comfortably callow. Writer Jim
Burnstein never fleshes out the role of Bill Rago. Nor is the diminutive
director the best person for the part. (He never comes as alive as the
role requires.) But DeVito's a lovable lout and he carries the film.

Rago's roster of students include TV actor Kadeem Hardison and rapper
Marky Mark. They and the other recruits are all engaging, despite their
cliched characterizations. Other strong supporters include Gregory
Hines, James Remar, and, for two scenes, Cliff Robertson.

Running right at two-hours-plus-change, RENAISSANCE MAN is a long-sit.
There are some rewards, such as the curious sight of DeVito rappelling
from a training tower. The comedy is okay, but the feel-good drama
doesn't wash with the subject matter. Come on, these are guys who are
training to kill each other!

Then again, how can you trash a film that tries to bring "Hamlet" to the
masses?  To gripe or not to gripe, that is the question.

BOTTOM LINE:  An appropriate Memorial Day delivery, RENAISSANCE MAN is a
squishy, everybody-learns-a-valuable-lesson comedy about eight military
misfits who learn to love Shakespeare. Dismissed.

Grade: C+

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

Home   |   Recommended   |   Reviews   |   Views   |   Letters   |   Links   |   FAQ   |   Search!

Please report problems to
Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros