That's the fact, Jack!
We're all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army!
A 1981 movie starring Bill Murray
and Harold Ramis
is a military comedy about a slacker named John Winger (Murray) who convinces his friend Russell Ziskey (Ramis) to join the army. The two of them have a miserable time in basic training, but eventually their drill sergeant gets injured in a training exercise and they have to finish the training on their own. The night before graduation day they stay up all night, show up late for the parade, and put on one hell of a show for the generals. In the end, they are assigned to guard the new EM-50 urban assault vehicle in Italy.
While John and Russell are guarding it, they decide to "borrow" it and go for a joyride to Austria. The rest of their squad comes after them, thinking that they're communist spies, but they take a wrong turn and get captured by the Soviets in Czechoslovakia. Winger and Russell come back to save their squad. When they come back to the states, somehow they all end up getting medals.
The movie was well-liked by critics, with an 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was also fairly successful financially, grossing $85 million in North America on a $10 million budget.
This movie provides examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Sgt. Hulka can't help but let out a few guffaws at Winger's smart-assed "Big Toe" speech before promising to come back at 0500 to put that Big Toe where the sun don't shine.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Czech soldiers "speak" in vaguely Russian-sounding grunts.
- Awesome Personnel Carrier: The EM-50 "Urban Assault Vehicle". (It's basically an armed GMC Motor Home, GM's classic — but failed — attempt to compete with Winnebago.)
Stillman: My truck! Where's my fucking truck?!
- Axe Crazy: Francis 'Psycho' Soyer, who threatens to kill his squadmates if they touch him or his stuff, or call him anything other than Psycho.
- Badass: Sergeant Hulka isn't just a Drill Sergeant Nasty - during the climax of the film he also proves himself to be a legitimate badass when he sneaks behind the Iron Curtain to recover the EM-50.
- Bad Boss: Captain Stillman shows what happens when the Pointy-Haired Boss is given responsibility for a company of soldiers.
- Butt Monkey: The movie's loaded with them, but special mention has to go to the two Russian guards at the Czech checkpoint. They couldn't buy a break with all the vodka in Russia. Finally, completely fed up, they have this exchange:
Guard One: I hate tourist season!
Guard Two: Such a truck would be good for picking up girls in Minsk...
- Casual Car Giveaway: When John and Russell arrive at the Army recruiting center, they park in front of a Morguelan Walsh storefront:
Shopkeeper: Hey, this is a loading zone! You can't park here!
Russell: We're not parking it, we're abandoning it.
- Cool Old Guy: Hulka, who despite his demeanor is a Father to His Men, going as a One-Man Army to rescue his men (though he has help.)
- Deadpan Snarker: The usual suspects in an Ivan Reitman movie, but Warren Oates' Hulka can stand toe to toe with even Bill Murray's Winger.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Hulka, though, befitting an Ivan Reitman comedy, he's more the dry and sarcastic type then a furiously aggressive type such as R. Lee Ermey. In fact, he's one of the few characters in the entire film who has much in the way of common sense.
- Eagle Land: Most of the main characters are distinctly Type 2 (as Winger puts it, America got started because they got kicked out of every decent country), but still trying to be Type 1. Played for Laughs.
- Embarrassing First Name: "Anyone calls me Francis, and I kill you."
- Expy: Francis 'Psycho' Soyer is fairly obviously based on Travis Bickle.
- Fair Cop: Stella and Louise as a pair of female Military Policemen.
- Fanservice Extra: The women that Capt. Stillman spies on; all the girls at the topless mud wrestling bar.
- Foil: In terms of comedy dueos, Russel is this for Winger, in a Red Oni, Blue Oni arrangement. For the platoon as a whole, we have Sergeant Hulka, the island of common sense in a sea of insanity keeping the platoon in line and on mission despite their incompetent commander.
- Foreshadowing: "WHERE'S MY TRUCK?" The third act involves John and Russell stealing an armored, militarized GMC Motor Home.
- General Failure: Captain Stillman
- "Get out of Jail Free" Card: Even though John and Russell borrowed the EM-50 on their own accord, they get heralded as heroes coming home since they demonstrated its effectiveness against the Soviets.
- The Ghost: Sergeant Crocker, training the other platoon in Captain Stillman's company during Basic, is never seen, referred to a number of times, and in the extended cut, is given the blame by Captain Stillman for the mortar mishap that put Hulka in the hospital (the mishap which, of course, was caused by Captain Stillman himself.
- Glory Hound: Stillman.
- Groin Attack: Stella pulls off a lot of those during the rescue mission.
- Hello Again Officer: John and Russell run into Stella and Louise everywhere they go, combining this with Ship Tease.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: John and Russell, which makes Russell's quip that they're not gay but willing to try if the Army wants them to even funnier.
- Ignored Expert: Hulka during Stillman's mission to retrieve the EM-50. Hulka gets so irritated he bails out before they're captured by the Czechs.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Captain Stillman manages to go above and beyond by invoking this trope with a mortar, nearly wiping out Sergeant Hulka's platoon with a blindly fired mortar.
- Improperly Placed Firearms: "Soviet" troops carry a motley collection of dressed up MAC-10s, Uzis, and Finnish Valmet assault rifles in lieu of anything that they would normally use— excusable in this case, given that the movie was filmed at the height of the Cold War.
- Incoming!: Sgt. Hulka when Capt. Stillman's carelessness on the range results in the platoon coming under fire.
- Jerkass: Winger. Most of the platoon (initially) hated him for his failed attempts at playing smart with Hulka.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sgt. Hulka. Sure, he's your average loud and rough army sergeant, but he's willing to go to great lengths to protect his men.
- "Join the Army," They Said: It was Winger's idea to enlist, and he talked Ziskey into signing up by promising him that military life was going to be a total blast. As you might reckon, Ziskey gets pissed off later on when he catches Winger trying to go AWOL.
- Kentucky Doubling: Pretty much the entire movie was filmed in and around Louisville, with Fort Knox portraying the Army base and a disused Jim Beam distillery playing the Czech Red Army outpost.
- Very, very discreetly hinted at in the recruiting scene; the storefront the boys "park" in front of was Morguelan Walsh, a Louisville-based wholesale drug company.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Stella and Louise, the two female MPs, remove their helmets and let their hair down shortly before they end up spending the night with John and Russell in the General's house. Note that they hadn't decided on this course of action yet when they let their hair down.
- Mildly Military: The whole platoon, with the sole exception of Sergeant Hulka.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: When Winger gives his rousing speech to his platoon.
- Naughty Birdwatching: Cpt. Stillman does this.
- Never My Fault: After the Soviets capture them, Stillman blames the platoon for the entire predicament they're in.
- New Meat: Most of the platoon.
- No Kill Like Overkill: Psycho during bayonet training. He knocks the dummy off the frame supporting it and stabs it over and over again while cursing furiously.
- Oh, Crap: Sgt Hulka, when Captain Stillman forces a soldier to fire an errantly aimed mortar: "Oh, shit... INCOMING!"
- Old Soldier: Sergeant Hulka.
- One-Man Army: The Drill Sergeant Nasty Sergeant Hulka turns out to be this.
- Only Sane Man: Hulka. The fact he's the only character played seriously makes his character stand out.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: Hulka's heart to heart with John (where he gives John an invitation to take a swing at him, then floors John with a single punch to the gut) is a bit out of place in a slapstick comedy. Ivan Reitman kept the scene in the movie because he felt it was important to establish Sgt Hulka's authority and physical strength over the men (as well as his considerably more old-school approach versus John's wild antics).
- "Open!" Says Me: Subverted then hilariously played straight - John and Russell try to rescue their captured unit from a cell by blowing up the locked door with a bomb, which fails. Then John Candy's character Ox (who's inside the cell among the prisoners) decides to run screaming at the door, and smashes it open.
- Physical Fitness Punishment: Sgt. Hulka orders the men to go on a five mile run. Winger mouths off to him in protest, so he responds by having the men go on a ten mile run instead.
- A Training Montage during basic keeps cutting to Winger doing push-ups in the rain. We're to assume his rampant smart-assery is what has him out doing them repeatedly.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Our plucky heroes.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hulka gives one to Winger during basic training.
- Reassigned To Nome, Alaska: Captain Stillman at the end.
- Rousing Speech: Winger gathers up the platoon as they pull an all-nighter to prepare for the graduation marching presentation, and gives them an inverted "The Reason You Suck" Speech.The speech!
- Sound Off: A hilarious version, where the platoon uses the song "Doo Wah Diddy" as a jody call.
- Stating the Simple Solution: When John and Russell "borrow" the EM-50 to meet up with their girlfriends in Germany, Captain Stillman erroneously assumes they're attempting to steal it for the Soviets. Sergeant Hulka suggests that if that's the case, instead of sending a single squad of green troops after them, they should deploy some of the crack soldiers and air recon forces that have been stationed near the border since the start of The Cold War to find it and bring it back. Stillman vehemently declines since he doesn't want his superiors to know the EM-50 went missing on his watch.
- Those Two Guys: Stella and Louise have repeated run-ins with Winger and Zisky, often commenting on their antics before eventually joining in later in the film.
- Two Girls to a Team: Again, Stella and Louise, although they're also technically Heroes Of Another Story as they're not actually part of the team, just in a romance subplot with two of the guys who are.
- Uncle Sam Wants You: See poster above.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Besides the Cold War setting, John and Russell are asked by an army recruiter whether either of them are homosexual, which points itself to pre-1994, before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" first allowed LGBT people to serve in the military.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: In the extended cut, John and Russell try to desert during Basic, and somehow end up parachuting into somewhere in South America, before running into a group of rebels, accidentally dumping a bunch of LSD into their stew, almost getting killed, and sneaking off before getting put back on the plane and sent back to Basic.
- Weaponized Car: EM-50 "Urban Assault Vehicle" — essentially a cruise-missile armed camper!
Where's my fucking
- Weapons Understudies: While in the Czech Red Army outpost, we see a "Russian" tank that is clearly a US built M48/M60 series tank with a few visual mods tacked on.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Standard for an Ivan Reitman film. Represented by humorous magazine covers: Hulka opens a burger chain, Stella is a Penthouse covergirl, Louise and Russell are interviewed by the fictional magazines Road Life and Guts, Ox becomes a teen heartthrob, and John graces the cover of a news magazine that asks "The New Army: Can America Survive?"
- Oh yeah, and a small news blurb about Stillman getting assigned to a snowbound doom.
- Yanks with Tanks: Specifically, the aforementioned EM-50 armored recreational vehicle.