Stripes is a cheerful, mildly outrageous and mostly amiable comedy pitting a new generation of enlistees against the oversold lure of a military hungry for bodies and not too choosy about what it gets. There’s little in the way of art or comic subtlety here, but the film really seems to work.
Bill Murray, who worked under Ivan Reitman in Meatballs, is an aimless layabout whose Sad Sack life prompts him to consider the army as a last-ditch passport to the career, rromances, travels and other delights painted in those glossy federal commercials.
Predictably, after he cons buddy Harold Ramis into enlisting, the sexy ads quickly prove to be Madison Avenue fiction, with basic training – under the grizzled glare of drill sergeant Warren Oates – taking the place of fraternity hell week as Murray heads deeper into trouble, cued by his amiably arrogant smart-assedness.
Apart from Murray’s focal presence, Ramis and obese John Candy are wildly funny, with Oates treading a good balance between grizzly humor and military convictions (which the film, surprisingly, winds up more honoring than knocking).