Even Steve Martin back in his wild-and-crazy mode can’t breathe much life into Sgt. Bilko – a somewhat unlikely candidate for translation from the TV sitcom vaults to the bigscreen. Bilko can’t really be much more than the series – the exploits of an unscrupulous army scam artist constantly looking for new ways to make a buck.
The plot has Bilko’s nemesis, Maj. Thorn (Phil Hartman), coming to the base, seeking revenge on Bilko for a past indiscretion that nearly scuttled his career. Thorn not only wants to ruin Bilko’s current setup but also to steal his girlfriend (Glenne Headly), whom Bilko has a bad habit of repeatedly leaving at the altar. Another thread finds Bilko trying to win over a strait-laced new addition to the unit, Wally (Daryl Mitchell).
Director Jonathan Lynn generally has a nice comic touch, but Bilko simply misfires on too many of its gags, often seeking to mask its deficiencies with a frenetic energy that’s difficult even for Martin to maintain.
Among the other featured players, Dan Aykroyd, as Bilko’s benignly ineffectual superior Col. Hall, amounts to window dressing, Hartman has played this smarmy character many times before and Headly is back in her Tess Trueheart mode as the faithful, forgotten girlfriend. Tech credits are sharp.