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Thanks to a run of bad luck and go-nowhere jobs, John convinces Russell to join the army so they can get in shape, likening it to a health spa. Once in boot camp, wiseguy John tangles with his by-the-book Sgt. and becomes the unofficial leader for his platoon, made up mostly of other misfits and assorted losers. After somehow making it through graduation, they are given a special assignment but, thanks to John's romantic interest in a pretty MPO, the other men wind up behind the Iron Curtain until John, Russell, their dates and Sgt. Hulka make a daring rescue attempt in explosive style.
For more about Stripes and the Stripes Blu-ray release, see Stripes Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 22, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Judge Reinhold, P.J. Soles, Warren Oates
Director: Ivan Reitman
» See full cast & crew
Stripes Blu-ray Review
Does Sony's latest catalogue release earn its "Stripes?"
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 22, 2011
You look like a typical low life character to me.
There are just certain occupations, certain trades, certain ways of life that some people just aren't cut out for. Hefty guys probably won't make a living as the traveling circus' trapeze artist, skinny guys wouldn't stack up in the sumo wrestling world, math-illiterate folks probably shouldn't go into accounting, shy people might not make it as TV personalities, and self-professed clowns probably shouldn't join the army. That is, of course, unless those clowns happen to be Bill Murray and friends. Stripes is Murray at his best, the movie in which the comic legend takes his pitch-perfect style to the barracks where he dons fatigues and makes a mockery of the strict structure, hard work, and dedication of military life. Of course, making a mockery of the army is, in this case, a good thing! Stripes is classic Murray, a Comedy built around a good script that's made many times better thanks to Murray's uncanny knack for perfect comedic timing and physical humor. Backed up by a pair of the genre's best in Murray contemporaries Harold Ramis and John Candy, Stripes is a winning -- but not quite perfect -- foray into the world of the U.S. military run amok thanks to a few bozos who don't want to work to be all they can be, but who end up showing that being the perfect soldier -- earning their stripes -- isn't always about doing things by the book.
Cab driver and part-timer photographer John Winger (Bill Murray) isn't having a very good day. He's chewed out by a socialite passenger, quits his job, sees his car repossessed, drops his pizza on the pavement, and loses his model girlfriend. But a visit from longtime ESL-teaching pal Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis) is always good for a pick-me-up. With nothing left to lose and everything to gain, Winger decides it's time to enlist in the army, and he somehow manages to convince Ziskey to do the same. The pair are greeted by a strict drill Sergeant named Hulka (Warren Oates) who takes an immediate dislike to Winger, whose antics are enough to land the platoon in hot water time and again. It seems that whenever Winger and Ziskey get in trouble, though, two of the base's foxiest MP's -- Stella (P.J. Soles) and Louise (Sean Young) -- are right there to begrudgingly (or not so begrudgingly, as the case may be) get them out of it. Before long, the group of misfits, which includes the well-meaning, overweight, and malleable Ox (John Candy), are chosen to take part in a special military ceremony that could make or break their careers and, just maybe, the entire U.S. army.
Sure enough, war is serious business, but Murray, Candy, and Ramis make it a little easier to stomach, a bit easier to enjoy, a little lighter than it normally is. Stripes is a classic sort of Comedy where the specifics don't matter as much as how well the laughs take advantage of them, so the army setting is more a convenience, a backdrop, and the movie finds its stride through it, not solely because of it. In fact, there are plenty of times where the army setting is largely ignored or military protocols and actions aren't integral to the plot or the humor. These are, subjectively speaking, some of the film's slower moments, but they still provide hearty laughs due in large part to the cast's ability to draw every last ounce of excellence out of every situation it's in. Granted the movie does drag a little -- at two hours, it's a bit long for a Comedy, not as army lean and mean as it might be, and there are definitely some scenes that could stand a good trimming -- but the real pleasure is just watching three comic masters at work. Murray, Candy, and to a lesser extent Ramis are three actors who can carry a movie on their presence alone, individually and, especially, collectively. That's definitely the case here, though the script really does make things relatively easy on them in just how well it lampoons the basic training army experience, making this pretty much the polar opposite of Full Metal Jacket's historically good and ultra-serious first half.
For as funny as the film may be and as thoroughly hilarious as the performances undisputedly are, there's another star in Stripes that's arguably its defining element. That's legendary Composer Elmer Bernstein's all-American theme music that marches to the exact same cadence the film creates -- or is it the other way around? The theme is magnificently militaristic but at the same time palpably playful; it's uptempo and unmistakably a dominant force every time it plays. It fits in equally well whether supporting the scene featuring the raw recruits arriving on base for the first time or as a victory celebration piece at the climax of the film's famous mud wrestling sequence. Nevertheless, even the potent combination of Bernstein and the film's magnificent cast just aren't enough to nudge this one up there with the giants of Comedy. It's a Comedy in the tradition of Director Ivan Reitman's own Meatballs, a zany adult-orienrted romp that displays as much passion and heart as it does humor, but it loses some steam as it dwells on a few superfluous elements that tend to run a little long and bog the movie down. No matter, though, between the genius of both the score and the performances, Stripes is a great success and a defining picture of 1980s Comedy.
Stripes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Stripes isn't the best looking movie ever to grace the Blu-ray format, but Sony's 1080p transfer nevertheless appears faithful to the source, which is almost all anyone could ask. Though the image is a little soft and fuzzy in a few spots, the bulk is rather sharp, clear, nicely detailed, and accentuated by a fairly heavy layer of grain, intermixed with some sporadic and occasionally unsightly noise. Detail ranges from adequate to exemplary; the brick walls and scattered elements around Winger's apartment as seen early in the film aren't extraordinarily impressive, but fine detail on army uniforms later in the movie can be downright breathtaking. Clarity is strong enough in the film's third act to clearly see that the many Garand rifles used in drills and practice are replicas/fakes. Colors seems bit more alive once the action shifts away from the city and into the army camp; even the olive drab uniforms that are so prominent throughout the picture take on a wonderfully natural tone. Slight background blocking is evident in one or two scenes, but not to a terribly debilitating extent. This is a somewhat uneven transfer. It never looks bad, but it does look old in a few places, particularly early on before the action shifts to the army camp. There's a hint of dirt here and there, too, but for the most part this is a good looking catalogue transfer that just asks viewers to take a little bit of "meh" with a whole lot of good.
Stripes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Stripes enlists on Blu-ray with a Sony standard-issue DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Much like the video, it has its high and low points, but the good easily outweighs the bland. There are times, usually early in the movie, where things seem to get a bit shallow, where dialogue plays with a hint of detachment about it. It picks up considerably as the action moves forward, however. Music delivery is good, and Bernstein's theme music sounds great: it's rich, big, energetic, spacious, and clear. Surround support is evident in many spots, both in music support and in the delivery of both action and ambience. Light atmospherics aid in setting various scenes, and good, solid bass supports the rumbling of thunder and various explosions that occur throughout the movie. Missiles zip and artillery rounds zoom, both tearing paths through the soundstage in several scenes. It's certainly not a war move extraordinaire type of soundtrack, but for an aging Comedy the material sounds quite good. Dialogue remains firm and center-focused through most of the picture, though as noted it does tend to struggle just a hair out of the gate. Overall, this is a pretty solid audio offering from Sony.
Stripes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Stripes delivers two rank-and-file extras, an audio commentary and a documentary covering the making of the film.
Stripes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Stripes isn't the perfect Comedy, but what it lacks in polish and superior editing it more than makes up for through the wizardry of its leads. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and John Candy carry the movie even when the script isn't quite up to snuff, and combined with a wonderful score by Elmer Bernstein, Stripes remains one of the 1980's better screwball Comedies. Sony's Best Buy exclusive Blu-ray release yields solid video and audio to go along with a few extras. Recommended.
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Stripes Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Stripes Blu-ray - November 14, 2011
Next year, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Stripes to Blu-ray. The sophomore collaboration between actor Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) and director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) focuses on a slacker (Murray) who enlists in the military as a means ...
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