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