Timid remake of the Phil Silvers Show. Steve Martin is Sgt. Ernie Bilko, a con man who runs his own private paradise on Fort Bragg. A compulsive gambler and schemer, he never passes a chance to make a buck, and he never loses. When a major (Phil Hartman) with a personal grudge against Bilko arrives at Fort Bragg, he is determines to have his revenge, and destroy Bilko’s little empire. Martin never quite achieves the comic genius of the antics in some of his previous movies. Here, Bilko’s behavior rates several chuckles, and a couple of reflex laughs, but nothing more. His supporting cast (including Hartman, Dan Aykroyd, and Glenne Headly) don’t fare much better. The best humor in the film comes from the situations (a surprise inspection at the wrong barracks is particularly funny). Yet, most of the film seems forcibly restrained (Bilko’s behavior, while nonstandard by military measures, is by no means as outrageous as it could have been). Steve Martin fails to rise above the material, and as a result what is left is a rather mediocre comedy.
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