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Renaissance Man

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Renaissance Man

Starring: Danny DeVito, Gregory Hines
Director: Penny Marshall
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: June 1994
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: James Remar, Cliff Robertson, Lillo Brancato Jr., Stacey Dash, Kadeem Hardison, Richard T. Jones, Mark Wahlberg, Ed Begley Jr.

Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

Life in the military requires sense of discipline, direction, hardships and risks most of the people in prosperous industrial nations aren't willing to take. As a result, recruiting base of professional armies is becoming the domain of impoverished misfits who couldn't have adapted to "normal" civilian way of life. Protagonist of RENAISSANCE MAN, 1994 comedy directed by Penny Marshall, is reminded of this fact. The plot, based on the screenplay by Jim Burnstein, begins with Bill Rago (played by Danny De Vito), unemployed advertising expert from Detroit, in a desperate need of job. So he takes the first offer that comes and begins working as civilian instructor at the nearby military base. His job is to teach "thinking skills" to the class of eight hopeless recruits. Both the teacher and his class are initially sceptical and un-enthusiastic towards this academic endeavour, but Rago would slowly begin to build mutual respect and incite learning drive in his pupils by using Shakespeare's "Hamlet".

RENAISSANCE MAN is "high concept" project so typical of 1990s Hollywood - comedy based around single joke. In this case the humour is based on simple "fish out of water" scenario and clash between two worlds - white-collar sophistication embodied in Rago's character and blue-collar simplicity embodied in recruits. Unfortunately, scriptwriter Burnstein at times seems undecided whether to make genuine comedy or serious social drama and throws material that would inflate running length to almost two hours. There are some characters who serve only as an excuse for brief and unnecessary appearances of otherwise good actors like Gregory Hines and James Remar. What saves this film is direction by Penny Marshall who, despite her reputation of "tearjerker" specialist, puts an emphasis on comedy and thus gives RENAISSANCE MAN its "feel good" credentials. Danny De Vito is also good in his role, same as those playing the recruits, young Mark Wahlberg being most notable of them all. All in all, despite its limitations and more than obvious flaws, RENAISSANCE MAN is more than watchable little "feel good" film that could be used as an example of Hollywood craftsmanship.

Copyright 2002 Dragan Antulov

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