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Film / Down Periscope

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Down Periscope is a 1996 comedy movie starring Kelsey Grammer as Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge USN, Executive Officer of the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS Orlando. Though considered by many to be a talented officer, he has been denied command of his own submarine twice for his... cavalier command style. A third denial will forever bar him from commanding a submarine, but Vice Admiral Winslow has a feeling that summarily dismissing an officer like Dodge would be a bad thing, and has come up with a method of proving it — a war game which pits USS Stingray, one of the last remaining diesel submarines still owned by the US Navy (and long since forgotten in the Mothball Fleet at that), against the East Coast nuclear navy. Dodge's assignment — simulate a terrorist strike against Charleston and Norfolk.

However, his opponent, Rear Admiral Graham, doesn't think the Navy needs irrepressible screwups like Dodge, and is willing to stretch the rules to the breaking point to prove it — starting by giving said screwup the crew he believes such a screwup deserves — ultimately a mistake that will make a laughing stock of the U.S. nuclear navy, as Admiral Winslow has explicitly ordered Dodge to "think like a pirate" to show that most of the world doesn't play by the book, and that's exactly what Dodge is going to do.

Notably Lt. Emily Lake (Lauren Holly) is supposed to be the first female submarine crew member in the history of the United States Navy. She is a Diving Officer.

The film is a parody of Up Periscope and other films in the submarine-film genre.

Examples of:

  • Accidental Innuendo: In-Universe, Dodge's speech introducing Diving Officer Lake to the rest of the crew has some of these, much to his embarrassment and their amusement.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Nitro can never get Admiral Graham's name right.
  • Alcohol Is Gasoline: Played With. At the climax, the Stingray's chief mechanic pours a bottle of whiskey inside of the (diesel) submarine's fuel feed to thin the mixture and make the sub go faster.
    MMC (Ret) Howard: Whiskey, thins out the mix; gives us an extra fifty RPMs!
  • The Alleged Car:
    • USS Stingray, a Balao-class fleet submarine, was the fastest, quietest, deadliest, most advanced weapon under the sea in her prime... which was in 1943. She was considered obsolete by the late 50s, has been rusting on Red Lead Row since 1965, and didn't even get the GUPPY-II upgrade like many of her sisters. She was chosen to be the aggressor for the war game because of her obsolete, decrepit nature.
    • A submarine without the GUPPY upgrades or any of the things a modern diesel submarine has is damn near impossible to find when it goes silent and a WWII-era submarine can go silent for 2-3 days.
    • How alleged is the Stingray? Well, during the middle of the wargame, Nitro is still rewiring the entire radio system pretty much from scratch and ends up using his own body to close the circuit so Dodge can take radio calls.
  • Anti-Mutiny: What Pascal sees his attempted takeover as. He wants to play by Adm. Graham's changed rules, not realizing that Dodge has higher orders, and claims Dodge has "hijacked [his] own boat" before addressing the crew and trying to take command.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: When the Stingray submerges the first time, Chief Engineer Howard throws a switch that shuts down the diesel engine and runs the submarine on battery power. But when he does so, the propeller screws in the engine room stop moving, whereas in actuality they would continue to run on battery power (in fact, if they didn't, the submarine would stop moving forward and could not stay submerged).
  • Artistic License – Military: There's plenty of stuff that has those actually familiar with the Real Life US Navy's Submarine Service laughing not only at the intentional comedy that's a surprisingly accurate reflection of submariners, but the unintentional variety as well. While some of the inaccuracies are due to writer ignorance, and some are due to Rule of Cool or convenience to the plot, some of the issues surrounding USS Orlando can be chalked up to the film production staff not having access to classified USN information.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In-Universe, the Stingray and her crew are the opposing force of the war game and they succeed in infiltrating Charleston harbor and sinking the dummy warship. On the other hand, Admiral Winslow considers it a good thing, since something like that happening in a war game is far better than an actual terrorist attack. And now the Navy knows one way it could happen and can act accordingly.
  • Bait-and-Switch: As we're introduced to the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, Dodge fully expects Sonar to be completely deaf and just have an Ironic Nickname. Pascal whispers that Sonar actually has superior hearing and was considered a security risk for it, to which Sonar interjects a good distance away to say that he is quite trustworthy.
  • Behind the Black: When Pascal is walking the plank, Lt. Lake doesn't seem to notice Pascal is going to fall safely into a fishing net until he actually does so.
  • Big Good: Vice Admiral Winslow sees potential in Dodge and arranged the war game to give the Lieutenant Commander one last shot at commanding his own submarine. He's also determined to figure out if it's possible for a rogue obsolete sub to seriously threaten the mighty US Navy, unlike the rest of the brass, who automatically dismiss the notion as ridiculous. He's proven right on both counts.
  • Blessed with Suck: "Sonar" Lovacelli has an incredible sense of hearing which makes him an equally incredibly good sonar operator... unfortunately said sense of hearing is also so damn good that there is literally no place in a submarine wherein someone can carry out a conversation that he won't be able to hear, no matter how low the whisper. As a result, every single captain he's worked under considered him a security risk (the fact that he's such a Kindhearted Simpleton that he's flat out admitted to them that he has such good hearing and tries not to hear everything they say has not helped him).
  • Blunder-Correcting Impulse: While the submarine is passing between the propellers of a larger ship Dodge has to remind Lake that she received higher dive officer training marks and desperately needs her to get over her crisis of ability and back behind the wheel.
    Dodge: You're the only one who can, Lake. I'm guessing here!
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Deconstructed by Admiral Winslow. Dodge believes that he's been set up for an elaborate practical joke, appointed to command a rusted World War II-era diesel sub, but Winslow explains that the whole point of the wargame is to test whether a diesel sub, of the kind that the former Soviet Union is selling off in droves to smaller countries hostile to the U.S., could evade the U.S. Navy's submarines and surface ships protecting its harbors.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Lt. Emily Lake is (in this movie) the first woman to serve on a submarine of the United States Navy. Commander Dodge, not having been informed in advance, initially thinks that his crew have hired a stripper, and they do indeed treat her mostly as eye candy to start with (which leads them to sabotage her laundry to make her uniform more revealing). Her lack of real-world experience (and lack of confidence) doesn't help her in establishing her credentials, but when a particularly tricky situation calls for her specialist training, she rises to the occasion and proves her skill as a dive officer.
  • Brick Joke: Two with Stepanek:
    • When he first meets his crew, Dodge gets Stepanek to settle down by informing him that "if I throw you off, it'll be in the middle of the Atlantic." Later in the film, Dodge does in fact throw an insubordinate member of his crew off of the Stingray in the middle of the Atlantic - but it's not Stepanek, it's Pascal, and he's tossed onto the waiting net of a helpful fishing boat rather than into the water, and Stepanek is the one doing the tossing.
    • Early in the film when Stepanek makes his dislike of serving aboard a submarine (or in the Navy in general) clear, Dodge points out that the service is voluntary and he can simply resign. Stepanek notes in frustration that he can't because his father's an admiral. At the end of the film, Admiral Winslow thanks Dodge for getting his son (Stepanek) to face forward.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Stepanek is actually very good at his job when he wants to be, it's just he doesn't want to be there. In his first scene he insults Dodge and then proceeds to give a detailed explanation of what regulations he just broke and the required punishment, which will get him out of serving on the Stingray.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of the crew fit this trope, which is how they ended up on the ship to begin with, starting with their Commanding Officer, LCDR Dodge. Both on and off the job, he's an immature goofball, but he also shows that immature does not necessarily mean irresponsible. His antics are never shown to actually affect his job performance, he gets along well with his subordinates, and he whips a derelict rustbucket submarine into seaworthiness over the course of a montage.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lt. Marty Pascal is an obnoxious lout who abuses his crew. The crew abuse him right back as he become the victim of several pranks and pratfalls. Bonus points for the fact that he's played by Rob Schneider.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Stepanek leads the engine crew in stopping the leaks that almost sink the boat, after Howard, the civilian specialist, gets knocked-out. Afterwards, Stepanek helps Howard back to his feet when he comes to.
    Howard: I miss anything?
    Stepanek: Just a little water!
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sonar's attempts to mimic whales by recording their calls. Also, Dodge's skill in calculating targeting solutions is shown early on via him nearly getting a hole in one while teeing a golf shot from the deck of a moving submarine.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Two live torpedoes are given to the Stingray as an alternate objective for the final target of the war game. Using this option allows the crew to destroy the dummy ship even though they are killed in the game.
  • The Chew Toy: Nitro has to endure electric currents through his body several times, just so Dodge can talk to somebody. To be fair, he seems to like it - or at least not mind much.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Nitro, due to having "absorbed a lot of voltage" in his electrical career. His Establishing Character Moment is basically him testing loose wires for voltages without a meter. 'Sonar' Lovacelli is, to a lesser degree, one as well.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Stingray makes her first dive in 40 years down to 500 feet, Chief Machinist Mate Howard attaches a string to the inside of the pressure hull taut from port to starboard. As Stingray's depth increases, the water pressure begins squeezing the hull, causing the string to sag noticeably. Howard grins at Nitro, having put up the string to demonstrate this very thing.
    Howard: Bet ya never saw anything like that on one of those big nukes.
    Nitro: Uh, no, we didn't have clotheslines. We had those dryer things, with a window in the front.
  • The Comically Serious: Just about the entire crew of Orlando, from Commander Knox on down. They act completely professional and serious at all times, completely unaware of ensuing hilarity happening on Stingray, or the unconventional tactics her crew is pulling off to elude them.
  • Communications Officer:
    • Nitro, a skilled but very eccentric electrician who manages to coerce the aging ship's radio equipment to work via various short-circuits (including several passing through his own body).
    • Patton Oswalt has a small role as Stingray's dedicated radio operator.
  • Composite Character: Nitro is apparently both the boat's electrician and radio operator (in Real Life, these are separate rates). Justified in that for this mission, the Stingray really doesn't need a full-time radioman.
    • Another possible justification is that the equipment is in such bad shape that only Nitro knows how to keep it working.
  • Control Freak: Executive Officer Martin Pascal just can't relax and go with the flow...
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Several of Dodge's plans are incredibly risky, dangerous, or just so ludicrous that they seem unlikely, such as disguising themselves as a trawler full of drunk fishermen. Lampshaded in the climax by Spots, who says that the crew would prefer the risky maneuver, since it keeps working for them.
  • Crisis Makes Perfect: Lt. Lake's lack of real-time experience bites them when she accidentally drives the sub into the ocean floor, and as a result she loses confidence until the above-mentioned between the screws incident. Invoked in that Dodge was doing it deliberately, as she speaks to him afterwards and she asks him how much longer he would have waited before doing it right.
  • Curse Cut Short: When Admiral Winslow asks Captain Dodge what he thinks of the Stingray, he replies, "It's a complete piece of... antiquated equipment, sir."
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: Lt. Lake's uniform ends up being much more revealing after her shipmates sabotage her laundry, leaving her with the tiny uniform of the shrimpy XO.
    Dodge: Lt. Lake, you are almost out of uniform.
  • Damage Control: Stingray ends up busting some water mains in the engine room during a risky maneuver, leading to Stepanek's Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most everyone gets a moment or two, it's that kind of movie, but of note is Stepanek's introductory scene; dressed like a biker, being escorted by SPs as he yells at and threatens them...
    Dodge: Oh good, our chaplain has arrived.
    • Stepanek has a few good lines of his own, such as after Lake screws up and crashes the submarine on the ocean bottom.
    Nice job, Lake. Like droppin' a piano! Why do you do it again in case they didn't hear you the first time?
  • Didn't Think This Through: Pascal tries to remove Dodge from command, as Dodge has intentionally disregarded Graham's orders. Dodge did so because he has higher orders from Winslow. He fails to account for two things. One, Dodge's actions have earned the respect of the crew. Two, his own actions have alienated the whole crew. He seems shocked and outraged when he realizes that Dodge has called him mutinous and is about to take care of the matter.
  • Dissimile
    Nitro: Radio's running like a
  • Do-Anything Soldier: Nitro is the ship's electrician, but he is doing double duty as a radio operator as well. Also, Buckman is seen doing deck maintenance when he should be cooking. Truth in Television, as all crew members of a sub are cross trained in different departments.
  • Double Entendre:
    • Stepanek, on seeing Dodge exiting the aft torpedo room serving as Lake's quarters:
      Stepanek: Polishing the old torpedo, Sir?
    • Dodge ends up unintentionally doing this a few times when introducing Lake to the crew.
      Lt. Cmdr Dodge: All right, look, gentlemen! I know this is an unusual situation. Can't be easy for Lt. Lake here to be thrown into a jungle such as this, and I know it will make things hard on all of us... [laughter] Let me rephrase that. It's going to make things difficult on all of us as well. But if we just work together as a team, I'm sure we can handle ourselves... [laughter] Comport ourselves as professionals. That is all.
  • Double Meaning: Stepanek gets "relocated" when he fails to help prepare the ship for service.
  • The Drunken Sailor: Invoked by Dodge to fool the Orlando into thinking his sub is just a civilian fishing boat caught in a storm. It works.
    Captain Knox: Great. We've just chased down a boatload of beered-up fishermen.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: One of Rear Admiral Graham's complaints against Commander Dodge is his owning one of these.
    Rear Admiral Graham: I just don't think it's good policy for the Navy to hand over a billion dollar piece of equipment to a man who has "Welcome Aboard" tattooed on his penis!
  • Everyone Has Standards: Stepanek isn't trying to screw everybody, only himself.
  • Fartillery: Buckman's fart is not only loud enough to be picked up by the Orlando's passive sonar microphones (and the sonar technician who hears it flat-out calls it "some sort of explosion") but he stinks up the entire inside of the sub to the point the other crew members have a hard time breathing and their eyes start to water.
  • Foreshadowing: Lt. Commander Dodge's threat: "If I throw you off, it'll be in the middle of the Atlantic." The only difference between when he said it and when he finally does it is the person to whom he speaks. He says it to Stepanek, but he does it to Pascal. In fact, it's Stepanek who ends up doing the throwing.
  • Freakier Than Fiction: The basis of the movie - war games pitting decades-old naval hardware against modern equipment - has not only been done repeatedly in Real Life, but has often resulted in victories for the low-techs through skill and guile. The losing side has even changed the rules mid-game on occasion, but not in a subtle manner like Graham's manipulation of the playing area - they actually declared that the ships the low-techs sank were floating again.
    • At least one of the incidents in question, however, the low-tech forces were cheating even by the standards of the exercise (real assets cannot teleport, and a 2,000 pound fishing trawler cannot launch a missile whose launcher alone weighs double the boat's displacement). And "refloating" sunk assets is actually SOP for a naval wargame: The exercises exist as much to train the crewmen as they do the Admirals, and getting "sunk" on day 1 of a wargame and having nothing to do for the rest of the exercise would be counterproductive (think of it as "Ok, we'll pretend you did evade that torpedo and got away, proceed as if you did" or "Ok, you're acting as a replacement for a ship of the same class that was sunk on day 1").
  • Friendly Enemy: The crew of USS Orlando are just doing their best to win the wargame, same as the crew of USS Stingray. It's Graham that acts as the Big Bad of the film. Even Commander Knox, who's excessively straight-laced and refused to recommend Dodge for promotion, is not a bad guy at all.
  • Funny Background Event: When Graham dares his fellow admirals to "call [him] prude" during his anti-Dodge rant in the prologue, one of them can be seen grinning and giving a subtle "that's exactly what you are" nod in the background.
  • Gasshole: Buckman interrupts the sub's silent running with a fat ripper (in his defense, he really tried to hold it in).
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Commander Knox. Profanity is his Berserk Button.
  • Groin Attack: Pascal gets his luggage tossed straight into his groin right after he's made to walk the plank.
  • Harmless Voltage: Nitro, of course. With all the voltage he's absorbed over the years, he's built up a considerable amount of tolerance.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": Dodge gets on a Freudian Slippery Slope when talking to the crew about a woman (Lt. Lake) being on board:
    Dodge: All right, look, gentlemen. I know this is an unusual situation. Can't be easy for Lt. Lake here to be thrown into a jungle such as this, and I know it will make things hard on all of us...
    Crew: [laughter]
    Dodge: Let me re-phrase that. It's going to make things difficult on all of us as well. But if we just work together as a team, I'm sure we can handle ourselves...
    Crew: [laughter]
    Dodge: Comport ourselves as professionals. That is all.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Dodge's idea to get past the Orlando in their first run-in involved surfacing, placing some lights on the periscope, and having the crew sing like they were drunk to convince Knox that they were just drunken fishermen caught in a storm. It works.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Nitro's name really is Nitro — his full name being "Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Michael K. Nitro" according to the filming script. He's considering "Mike" as a nickname.
  • Homage: Sonar is one to Radar from M*A*S*H, in name if not necessarily manner.
  • Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: Stingray has to make the final stage of their run on Norfolk with Orlando in hot pursuit.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Sonarman 2nd Class E.T. "Sonar" Lovacelli can hear how much change is dropped on a nearby submarine. And a crewman eating an Oreo on another deck. And a couple of lobsters dukin' it out. This IS helped by his listening equipment, but it takes more than fancy gear to point out that someone dropped "forty-five cents. A quarter... and two dimes", after jerking as if an explosion went off in his ear after the coins hit the deck.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After Dodge gives the command to push Stingray's old clapped-out diesel engines well beyond redline for an extended period of time, the chief engineer pulls out a bottle of whisky and pours a shot for himself and the engineer's mate. He then dumps the rest of the bottle into the fuel line, stating that upping the proportion of ethanol to diesel in the fuel will let him squeeze another 50 RPM out of the engine.
  • Indestructible Edible: The can of Deviled Ham in the galley. It's been on that shelf since Korea. It expired in 1966. It still tastes like cream corn...
  • Indy Ploy: Almost everything Lt. Cmdr. Dodge does amounts to winging it.
    Dodge: Presently there are several ships positioned outside the harbor to intercept us. To get in, we'll need to use a tactic that is somewhat bizarre and extremely risky. If any of you think it's not worth it, please let me know now.
    Spots: Actually, sir, I think we prefer to go with the bizarre and risky. It's worked for us so far.
  • Insane Admiral: Rear Admiral Graham. He starts off as just an asshole, but by the end of the film the lengths he goes to to try and rig the wargame and screw Dodge over have pushed him fully into Mad Brass territory.
  • Instant-Win Condition: In the climax. All the Stingray has to do to win the wargame is sink the dummy ship. Their own survival was never part of the game.
    Dodge: Orlando, this is Stingray, Stingray One speaking. We acknowledge the kill and congratulate all the fine men on your boat.
    Graham: Well thank you, Captain.
    Dodge: However, at the time of your transmission, I had already fired two torpedoes.
    Graham: WHAT?!
    Dodge: You can probably hear them in the water. And though we are dead, our fish are on their way to the Naval Station dummy ship. They hit, we still win. Harr harr..
  • Insult Backfire: Graham's protests against giving Dodge a submarine over his "Welcome Aboard" tattoo only amused the other Admirals, and potentially made them more impressed with Dodge as a submariner, a naval branch that emphasizes roguish qualities. Admiral Winslow himself saw it as a positive trait for a renegade sub captain.
    Winslow: Damn it to hell, don't go by the book! Think like a pirate! I want a man with a tattoo on his dick! Have I got the right man?
    Dodge: [glumly] By a strange coincidence you do, sir.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Downplayed, but when R.J. sings the Army's then-current recruiting jingle ("Be all that you can be") while participating in one of Dodge's Crazy Enough to Work plans, Dodge is visibly annoyed. In the middle of a storm.
    Dodge: That's the Army song, Jackson!
  • Ironic Echo: The first thing Pascal declares to Stepanek after the latter's first attempt to get thrown off the Stingray is a characteristic "You're mine maggot!" Naturally, Stepanek throws it back in his face just before the final shove.
    Stepanek: Now you're mine, maggot. Watch that last step. [shove]
    Pascal: MOMMY!!!
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Lt. Pascal may be a loud Control Freak, his complaints about how Buckman runs the galley are entirely justified.
  • Large Ham:
    • Dodge: sure, the part involves a captain who has many reasons to be gleeful in giving Graham his comeuppance, but Kelsey Grammer clearly was relishing every line.
    • Admiral Winslow is a booming-voiced authority figure. It's Rip Torn for Christ's sake!
    • Pascal. He has No Indoor Voice, he gets in people's faces a lot, and when he tries to ask Dodge permission to leave the Stingray and get another assignment he does some really weird, wild gesturing with his arms as he attempts to phrase his request politely.
  • Lethal Chef: Buckman's kitchen practices are probably what landed him on the Stingray in the first placenote ; the most glaring things we hear about are a fingernail and band-aid in the food on two consecutive days (the band-aid was holding the fingernail on, you see), and then there's the deviled ham ... and we watch him drop cigar ashes in the cookpot! Although Dodge does compliment him on the coffee.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Admiral Graham tries to nullify the exercise by complaining about Dodge ignoring orders. Admiral Winslow shuts him down with a terse "Stow it. He had higher orders. And you can forget about that third star." Graham figured this war game would clinch his appointment for promotion; however, his promotion wasn't yanked for the war game. The Navy would probably overlook his changing the size of the game board; however, a visiting US Navy admiral on board a ship has no authority to just take over which Graham does on board the Orlando because it's personal between him and Dodge. Command in the US Navy is sacrosanct.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Dodge has already been passed over twice for command at the start of the film and a third time will mean that he'll be reassigned to a desk job, effectively ending his career.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Buckman's answer as to what time of the day 1100 is is indeed mathematically correct.
    Pascal: Now you take a look at that galley chart! 'Cause I want that cabinet repacked regulation style by 1100! Do you know what time 1100 is?!
    Buckman: That would be after ten hundred, sir.
  • Meaningful Name: Lt. Lake, who's never done an actual dive, having only been on a simulator—think of anyone who's only had training experience (if anything) in a lake, who suddenly has to face the open ocean.
  • Military Brat: Stepanek, of all people. Turns out his father is Vice Admiral Winslow, and Stepanek's been using his mother's maiden name to avoid allegations of favoritism.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Graham constantly changes the rules in order to give himself the advantage in the war games, including "I have to know where my attacker is coming from in order to catch him," as if a real enemy combatant would make it that easy. Dodge rightly ignores him; he had higher orders.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: An odd version: The Appalachians do run through Virginia, but aren't visible in any way in Norfolk, being nearly 200 miles away! Most of the film was shot in and around San Francisco Bay in California (USS Pampanito, which plays USS Stingray, is a museum ship in San Francisco), where the hills are much closer to the coast.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Lt. Lake is left in a too-tight top that her breasts almost pop out of after her laundry is sabotaged. Fortunately this sabotage only lasts one short scene.
      Dodge: Lieutenant Lake, you are almost out of uniform.
    • In-Universe, the crew views Lake as this until she proves her skill as dive officer.
  • The Mutiny: Lt. Pascal, way too by-the-book for this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, eventually decides to "relieve the captain of his duties" after Dodge ignores both Rear Admiral Graham's orders and Pascal's advice to follow them. However, as Dodge secretly had orders from a higher-ranking admiral, Pascal's move was a classic case of mutiny. As for how well it worked, see above under Didn't Think This Through.
  • The Neidermeyer:
    • Rear Admiral Graham tries to change the rules of the war game behind the back of his own superior officer, is abusive to the crew of the Orlando and takes over command of the Orlando at the end of the war game over its captain's protests.
    • Lt. Martin Pascal doesn't speak at anything quieter than a shout and verbally abuses the entire crew even though they all have his number.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Graham's providing a bum crew for Dodge probably would have steered him straight for another wargame victory, if only Sonar hadn't been among them. His insane talents for hearing and sonar use, not to mention mimicry, are the most directly responsible for Dodge coming ahead in troubling situations.
  • No Indoor Voice: Pascal, most of the time. Of course, it is Rob Schneider...
  • Noodle Incident: The Murmansk brushing incident. Although it's known that in Real Life there have been such incidents, which generally are the end of the responsible CO's career, the details of the one involving Dodge are mostly unknown. All that's known is that he was an Ensign at the time (meaning he likely was not in command, though he was probably running the tactical plot and miscalculated the range to the Russian sub, leading to the collision), got blindingly drunk afterwards, and received his Embarrassing Tattoo while inebriated.
  • Not So Above It All: Turns out Knox and his first mate had a little bet going on. Knox lost. The payoff happened behind Admiral Graham's back.
  • Number Two:
    • Lt. Pascal starts off as this for most of the movie, but proves to be a Control Freak and The Neidermeyer, and ends up being made to Walk the Plank (into the waiting net of a fishing boat) after attempting The Mutiny against Dodge.
    • Lt. Lake, following Pascal's departure, basically becomes XO to Dodge by default, as every other named character on board is of enlisted rank.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Buckman, when confronted by Pascal regarding his cooking.
      Pascal: Buckman! There was a fingernail in my food, you fat ass moron! Yesterday, it was a band-aid!
      Buckman: Sorry, sir, the band-aid was holding the fingernail on.
    • Also, while Pascal is yelling at him, Buckman sprays shortening on the floor and ladder behind Pascal's back, leading to the latter to slip on both items.
  • Odd Name, Normal Nickname: One of the submarine crew is called "Nitro" — full name "Michael K. Nitro", as mentioned in the script. When someone else tells him that's a cool nickname, he tells them it's his real name but he's been thinking of calling himself "Mike" as a nickname.
  • Office Golf: Early in the film, Dodge gets chewed out by his captain for playing golf off the weather deck of USS Orlando as she was sailing into port. He actually does rather well, hitting a long shot onto shore and getting very close to the hole.
    Knox: Well, what the heck? Why don't we pull in so you can putt out!?
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Dodge's Embarrassing Tattoo, which everyone seems to know about and feel the need to mention.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: To give the Navy the experience of a renegade submarine, Winslow orders Dodge to "think like a pirate." The extreme actions taken by Dodge are so far from normal submarine operations he fools his old CO on the Orlando, exactly like a terrorist would do in a similar situation, proving that when the target has nothing to lose, he's extremely hard to counter.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: Emily Lake asks for this, gets it, and then kisses the captain. Earlier, Dodge gives permission to Pascal when he tries to ask Dodge to relieve him of his post so he can go to another assignment, and Pascal buries himself deeper by calling the whole crew "the biggest collection of assholes and retards in naval history!" and tried to open up his attempt at using Present Company Excluded on his captain with "I know why you're here (the damned penis tattoo), but..."
  • Pirate Parrot: Nitro wears one at Pascal's walking the plank. Oh, and it is an uncooked chicken.
    Buckman: Don't let it fly away, that's supper.
  • Plank Gag: Dodge gets Buckman to unwittingly pull one on Stepanek, as Stepanek's comeuppance for slacking while everyone else is doing scut work.
  • Prank Punishment: When XO Lt. Pascal tries to mutiny and take over the USS Stingray, Commander Dodge and the other crew dress up as pirates and hold a mock execution for him, forcing Pascal to walk the plank off the submarine, blindfolded. He falls harmlessly into the net of a waiting fishing trawler that takes him back to shore.
  • Precision F-Strike: Captain Dodge (reading his own fitness report): "This is a confirmed kill. Twenty years down the fucking drain!"
  • Properly Paranoid: When told that the sonar contact has a diesel engine, Knox' first instinct is to assume that it's not a diesel submarine and to ignore it. However, he very rapidly thinks it over, realizes that he can't assume anything, and orders the Orlando to investigate the contact. Fortunately for the Stingray, Dodge is paranoid himself and had a back-up plan ready.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Orlando is able to catch the Stingray during the final run and get a torpedo firing solution, but unfortunately not before the Stingray was able to launch two live torpedoes that blow up a designated target sky-high. In the end, Admiral Graham (who was gloating his victory just one second before Dodge points this out) can only sit down and listen to Dodge's countdown as the torpedoes approach their target, and once the exercise is over his career offically goes down the drain thanks to his actions during it.
  • Radio Contest: Nitro tried to connect the sub to Admiral Graham's phone call. Being Nitro, it got misdirected,
    Dodge: Dodge here... 'Stairway to Heaven'... Led Zeppelin, 1971, right? Okay! Hey, good news, guys! We just won the Billy Joel tickets and the WROK T-shirts! Nitro, you wanna get me Admiral Graham, now?
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Dodge's crew obviously. We've got:
    • A hot-tempered and uptight Executive Officer.
    • A crusty old Chief Machinist's Mate who's actually retired and working as a civilian contractor (because no active Naval personnel is familiar with a Balao-class engine system).
    • A rebellious Engineman who wants to be court-martialed.
    • A sharp-eared Sonar Technician who could not only hear a pin drop, but identify the make and model of said pin from the sound it makes hitting the floor. In this case, there wasn't anything wrong with how he did his job, his leadership were just paranoid that anyone with hearing that sharp would be a security risk and wanted him gone.
      • Oh, he doesn't hear everything. And don't worry, he's very trustworthy... too.
    • A compulsive gambler with a well-established (and hilarious) losing streak.
    • A former U.S. Naval Academy basketball player who choked on his Big Game, flunked out, and wound up as an enlisted Seaman.
    • A shock-prone (and shock-addled) Electrician who can channel more voltage than a Pikachu.
    • A cigar chomping chef of questionable culinary skill and even-more-questionable personal hygiene.
    • A female Dive Officer (who has never served aboard a ship before) to test the feasibility of a coed crew (giving Dodge further headaches).
    • And pretty much every other insubordinate reject the Navy had available. All put together in a World War II vintage rustbucket of a submarine by a Glory Hound Admiral who was actively sabotaging both the wargames and Dodge's career.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Vice Admiral Winslow. He sees the potential in Dodge and gives him higher orders that give him more flexibility than Graham would permit in the war game.
    • Dodge himself may be a loose cannon when it comes to dealing with his superiors, but he treats his crew with genuine respect, which earns him their loyalty (unlike Pascal who berated and abused them).
  • Reassignment Backfire: Dodge and his entire crew. He also sees the importance of the war game to the Navy, while Graham simply sees it as another feather in his cap.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: When stringing halogen lamps on the periscope as part of a ruse to look like a fishing boat in rough nighttime weather, Jackson grumbles, "I didn’t see this shit in no recruiting poster!" After successfully taping down the light without drowning, he sings an old US Army recruiting ad song.
    Jackson: Be all that you can be!
    Dodge: That's the Army song, Jackson!
  • Riddle for the Ages: What Dodge's infamous tattoo actually was.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The whole point of the film's plot is that an old diesel submarine could be a threat to US harbors - if it was crewed and commanded by people willing to play outside the rule books of more conventional submarine forces in an underwater version of guerrilla warfare. This is Truth in Television for modern diesel-electric subs with air-independent propulsion; not so much for a World War II vintage submarine.
  • Rule of Three: Played with. Each time Dodge gets a call from Admiral Graham, he has Nitro put it through on a different method. The first time, it shocks Nitro. The second time, it seriously shocks Nitro. The third time, Nitro prepares himself with as much safety gear as possible. It works as intended and Nitro isn't hurt at all, much to his own surprise.
  • Ship Tease: Dodge and Emily. At one point Emily even expresses her admiration and gratitude to Dodge by giving him a kiss on the lips.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Towards the end, Dodge calls out Admiral Graham on his flagrant cheating.
    Dodge: Since when did the rules become important to you, sir?
    Graham: You watch yourself, Dodge. You are addressing a superior officer!
    Dodge: No, merely a higher ranking one! Catch us if you can!
  • Side Bet:
    • Spots and Jackson are seen exchanging money a couple of times. Keep an eye on them whenever something exciting happens.
    • Money changes hands aboard Orlando right after the climax of the film, between the normally strait-laced Captain Knox (CO of Orlando) and his (rather smug-looking) XO.note  Note that Knox bet against his former subordinate. Of all people, he should have known better, though the other option would be betting against himself.
      • To be fair, Knox didn’t KNOW who was commanding the “enemy” sub (which would be the case in a real life situation) and was more likely betting that he and Orlando would win. He can console himself with the fact that Graham had pulled rank and took command, so the loss was Graham’s.
  • Silent Running Mode: Pretty much a given in a submarine movie, and played with in multiple scenes:
    • When Stingray is trying to avoid detection by Orlando earlier in the exercise, they're doing well in hiding until Buckman rips a massive fart that the Orlando's sonar operator says almost sounds like an explosion.
    • Other notable events that break silence: three loose coins hitting the deck (Orlando) and accidentally hitting the ocean floor (Stingray).
    • However, it's successfully inverted by Stingray as well. At one point, being hunted by sonar, Dodge leads his crew in a drunken singalong. However, combined with some modifications to their profile and a howling storm, they convince the opposing sub that they're just a trawler full of drunk fishermen. It also helps that Orlando crew is unaware that their opponent is a diesel sub. When Knox's sonar technician tells him he heard a diesel engine, Knox immediately dismisses the possibility of a diesel submarine.
      • However, after thinking it over for a minute he orders his sub to intercept the contact anyway. See Properly Paranoid above. He's a experienced officer who knows that he can't afford to assume anything. Dodge, knowing Knox very well, had a back-up plan ready because he was pretty sure that Knox would be thorough.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Since he doesn't want to serve on a submarine at all (let alone one like the Stingray), Stepanek tries to get himself kicked out of Lt. Cmdr. Dodge's crew, starting from the moment he first arrives. Of course, Dodge sees through it immediately.
    Lt. Cmdr. Dodge: Stepanek. If I throw you off, it'll be in the middle of the Atlantic. Board the damn boat.
  • The Squadette: Emily Lake.
  • Starship Luxurious: The modern Orlando in comparison to the elderly, rickety Stingray. Backfires on the modern Navy men, though — some guy dropping his pocket change because he was buying snacks while the Orlando was in Silent Running Mode was the only sound "Sonar" Lovacelli needed to hear to know that the enemy sub was nearby.
  • Stepping Out to React: Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge is so surprised that he received a message to get to headquarters to be assigned a submarine for captaining (right after seeing that he was denied a commission for the third time, which made his career in his own words "thirty years down the fucking drain") that he asks his captain if this is a misunderstanding (and his captain says he had the message decoded twice, so it isn't) and then walks out of the room before whooping out in joy.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Graham doesn't like Dodge because he doesn't play by rules, or act like a proper officer. So how does Graham go about ensuring that Dodge won't receive command of a submarine? By cheating, and generally being an arrogant prick.
  • Stripper/Cop Confusion: In Real Life, at the time the movie was made women weren't allowed on US submarines — Dodge is thus thrown by Lake's appointment as the ship's dive officer, not knowing about a (then fictional) experimental program to see if women will be allowed to serve on subs. He thought that she was hired by the crew as a present for him.
  • Submarine Pirates: A U.S. Navy wargame calls for simulating an attack by terrorists working in conjunction with Submarine Pirates. Winslow's orders explicitly say "think like a pirate". The Stingray crew even plays it up when making LT Pascal Walk the Plank following LCDR Dodge's decision to ignore RADM Graham's attempt to rig the wargame, flying a Jolly Roger and dressed up in piratical clothing. Nitro never bothers to change out of his costume or wash off the fake beard for the rest of the run, and even giving the occasional "Arr".
    • Truth in Television with the Jolly Roger, which is a traditional victory flag for submarines. For example, HMS Conqueror flew one during her return to Britain after sinking the General Belgrano in the Falklands.
  • Sub Story: The entire film focuses on wargames conducted on submarines.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: The "think like a pirate" order doesn't immediately lead to this, but Dodge and the crew go all in when making Pascal Walk the Plank. Even after changing back into their regular clothes, they still indulge a little bit in this for the climax.
    Dodge: Harrve you any last worrrrds before ye walk the plank, sirrr?
  • Theme Naming: An interesting example as the different themes used by the two subs demonstrates just how far apart they are in terms of technology and service. Stingray is named using the US Navy's World War II-era tradition of naming submarines for fish, while Orlando uses the Navy's later tradition of naming attack submarines for cities note 
  • Title Drop: It's a sub movie called "Down Periscope". A title drop is a given.
  • Those Two Guys: Spots and R.J., the Stingray's Planesmen. The movie occasionally pauses to show them discussing whatever while at their post, usually R.J.'s basketball career and Spots' betting.
  • Toilet Humor: Buckman almost ruins Silent Running Mode with a mammoth fart. More comedy as the crew must stifle any urge to shout in disgust, which stretches into an Overly Long Gag.
    Dodge: Someone find Buckman and launch him out a torpedo tube!
  • Truth in Television: Although diesel-electric submarines like Stingray lack the speed and endurance of a modern nuclear-powered boat, they're also quieter and much harder to detect when submerged and running silentnote . A rogue diesel sub therefore presents a significant threat for a modern navy.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: A commander on his last chance, leading an intentionally collected Ragtag Bunch of Misfits crew, with an obsolete rust bucket of a sub as his craft. Of course, they pull off the win!
  • Walk the Plank: What the crew of USS Stingray makes Pascal do when he pushes them too far. A fishing boat is in on the joke and catches him in a strung net for laughs. As added injury, Stapanek gives Pascal his luggage-by dropping it on his crotch.
  • Way Past the Expiration Date:
    • The food stores in Stingray's galley date, in at least one case, back to The Korean War.
      Pascal: Jesus, Buckman! This stuff's been on the Stingray since KOREA! This can expired in 1966!
      Buckman: What's the matter, sir? It still tastes like creamed corn...
      Pascal: Except, it's DEVILED HAM!
      Buckman: That would be a problem.
    • Most of the crew view the Stingray as such, at least until she starts winning the wargame.
  • Well-Trained, but Inexperienced: Lt. Emily Lake has the highest simulator score in the US Navy, but no actual experience on a boat prior to being assigned to the Stingray. Also, she's not very confident, which doesn't help.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: When the crew is assembled, there are three officers of the Lieutenant Rank: Martin Pascal, the XO; Emily Lake, the Dive Officer; and a third Lieutenant standing next to Lake. This third officer is only seen in group scenes such as making Pascal walking the plank and the final scene when everyone is marching toward Admiral Winslow after disembarking from the Stingray.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Stepanek's first attempt to get out of serving on the Stingray is to openly insult Dodge to his face. Such a tactic would've worked with a by-the-book figure like Knox (who had earlier chastised Dodge's casual swearing), but he didn't realize he was dealing with a Military Maverick.