John Winger (Bill Murray) loses his job, his girlfriend and his car in one day. Tired of his life going nowhere, he decides to join the US army. He convinces his best friend Russel (Harold Ramis) to join with him. They expect it to be a quick way to pick up women and a fast track to the good life, but basic training isn’t as easy as they expected.
Stripes could have very easily become a dark movie given its military setting. Thankfully, it maintains a lightheartedness throughout the entire film, mostly due to the great comedy pair of Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. It is one of Murray’s and Ramis’ earliest comedies together, so they are a little rough around the edges. But they still offer some pretty good laughs, especially when bouncing off each other, as well as the spectacular supporting cast.
There is no doubt that part of the success of this movie stems from Bill Murray. His humor capitalizes on the army backdrop and lightens what could have become a very dark setting. Harold Ramis brings his own unique sense of humor to his role as Murray’s best friend, though not as successful as Murray. These two play fairly well off each other and when they are together offer some of the funniest moments of the film.
John Candy is probably my favorite member of the supporting cast. I think I laughed harder at his gags than either Murray or Ramis. Candy is just a great comedian. Warren Oates (Conrad Dunn) was great as the antagonist for Murray’s character. He was much more stern and straight-faced than Murray, but still had a few comedy moments. Oates’ speech during his introduction was great, too.
I really dug Elmer Bernstein’s score. His military march that is played frequently is catchy and captures the movie’s essence. It works equally as well during the introduction of the boot camp or a victory march.
The last act of the movie felt a little out of place compared to the rest of the film. The platoon goes to Italy to guard the secret “EM-50” project. This leads to Murray and Ramis heading Germany to visit their girlfriends and getting the rest of the platoon captured. I guess they couldn’t stay at the boot camp for the whole movie, but the setting doesn’t seem to fit with the first two-thirds of the movie.
One of Bill Murray’s and Harold Ramis’ first comedies, Stripes offers a lighthearted look at the military. Murray carries the movie well, especially when sharing the screen with Ramis. Easily the highlight of the movie, however, is John Candy, whose jokes made me laugh the hardest. The only problem I had with the film is the last act felt out of place with the rest of the movie. Stripes shows just how great a comedy duo Murray and Ramis can be together, each with their unique brand of comedy that compliments each other fantastically.
Cast & Crew
Ivan Reitman – Director
Len Blum – Writer
Daniel Goldberg – Writer
Harold Ramis – Writer
Elmer Bernstein – Composer
Bill Murray – John Winger
Harold Ramis – Russell Ziskey
Warren Oates – Sgt. Hulka
John Candy – Dewey “Ox” Oxberger
PJ Soles – Stella Hansen
Sean Young – Louise Cooper
John Larroquette – Capt. Stillman
John Diehl – Cruiser
Conrad Dunn – Francis ‘Psycho’ Sawyer
Judge Reinhold – Elmo Blum