Sgt. Bilko (1996)

Another TV sitcom ("The Phil Silvers Show") mined for the movies, 
SGT. BILKO stars Steve Martin as the famous fast-talking master 
sergeant who will do anything for a buck.  He runs the base 
casino-- that is, motor pool-- under the unsuspecting eye of his 
commanding officer (Dan Aykroyd).  He also has a gambling-addicted 
fiancee (Glenn Headly), who doesn't seem to mind being repeatedly 
left at the altar.  (He wins her back, each time, with a card 
game.)  Only with the return of an old nemesis (Phil Hartman), is 
Bilko forced to adjust, adapt, and, of course, come out smelling 
like a rose.

As contemporary combat comedies go, STRIPES is still the one to 
beat.  SGT. BILKO lacks a strong story, ensemble, or lead.  The 
script is an abomination that recycles the decades-old material 
with nary an original twist.  (The plot involves some nonsense 
about a "hovertank.")  The laughs are there, in spots, but nothing 
in the movie builds upon itself.  A wealth of comic opportunity is 
wasted, along with good actors Hartman and Headly.  (The smaller 
players score minor hits, as does Dan Aykroyd's underplayed base 

The biggest misfire is Martin, who belongs here but doesn't.  He 
lacks the steely shiftiness to make the role his own.  (A better 
choice would be someone like, say, Rip Torn.  Of course, *he's* not 
a box-office draw.)  Martin doesn't *command* SGT. BILKO, but he 
does *carry* it.  His limitless energy and precision timing single-
handedly keeps the film in step, and that's a performance worth 
watching even if the movie isn't.  And, yes, that's Phil's daughter 
Catherine playing one of the auditors called in to check Bilko's 
financial records.  Directed by Jonathan Lynn (MY COUSIN VINNY).  
(Rated "PG"/86 min.)

Grade: C+

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in Movie Hell: March 31, 1996

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