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Sgt. Bilko

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Sgt. Bilko

Starring: Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Rated: PG
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: March 1996
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Phil Hartman, Chris Rock, Glenne Headly, Eric Edwards, Max Casella, Dan Ferro, John Marshall Jones, Brian Leckner

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

SGT. BILKO is a highly forgettable, but quite funny remake of the classic Phil Silvers TV show from the mid 50s known variously as "The Phil Silvers Show", "You'll Never Get Rich", and simply "Sergeant Bilko." I was a nine year old when the series started and was a fan of it. Only Steve Martin and possibly Robin Williams have the comedic strength to revive the show. Here it is Steve Martin playing the role that is both a homage to Phil Silvers and yet is a fresh rendition as well. In short, this is not Martin at his best and the movie has a lot of gags, especially sight gags, that don't work, but the movie does has a lot of belly laughs in it. A sure fire audience pleaser even if not exactly blockbuster material.

I think this movie has some of the worst trailers for it that I have seen in quite a while, but I saw them so often that this slapstick comedy began to grow on me a bit before I ever walked into the theater. The movie has exactly three things going for it and no more. The acting by Martin, that of straight man Dan Aykroyd playing Sgt. Bilko's Col. Hall, and the script by Andy Breckman. The rest of the acting is fairly pedestrian but Phil Hartman as Major Thorn as well as his two accountant sidekicks are awful. Most of the technical aspects of the show like the cinematography, music, and sets are acceptable, but nothing special. The directing by Jonathan Lynn is minimal.

Sgt. Bilko runs the motor pool at Fort Baxter, but spends most of his time gambling and conning soldiers out of their money. His philosophy about gambling is, "I like a sporting event in which I know the outcome ahead of time. It's more organized." He does not run a very tight ship. His troops ignore bugle call, and do not get up until he announces, "Let's go campers. It's 10am. Time to start the day." In the funniest part of the show, Sgt. Bilko tells his group a story about how he once fixed a fight, but the wrong fighter was paid off before the fight started. The outcome is hilarious.

Major Thorn, cute name that, has an old grudge against Sgt. Bilko, and the plot of most of the show is that Major Thorn tries to prove a case against Bilko. The major allows as how "catching Bilko is hard as nailing Jell-O to the wall." Bilko is a conniver, but also a whiner. He tells soldiers that, "I'm paralyzed from the hair down. Make the bad man stop."

Glenne Headly (MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS and DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS) plays Bilko's girlfriend Rita Robbins. Rita is constantly getting conned by Bilko as well and sees it as an education saying, "I have a masters in manipulation from the University of Bilko." Bilko himself claims he has always had modest needs. He tells Col. Hall that "All I've ever wanted was an honest week's pay for an honest day's work." Everything that Martin does is cute right down to the way he carries himself and his funny little quasi-mocking salute.

SGT. BILKO runs a quick 1:32 thanks to fast paced editing by Tony Lombardo. I was amazed to find the show was a correctly rated PG one. I expected something much raunchier. There is no sex, nudity, or violence. If they said any bad words, I can not remember them. We should have brought our son Jeffrey (almost 7) as their was a five year old behind us who was laughing a lot and gave the show a thumbs up. SGT. BILKO is not great art, but I laughed a lot as did the rest of the audience, and I think you will too so I recommend the film and give the picture ** 1/2.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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