Saturday, June 20, 2009

If You Can't Step Away From The Screen (Vol. 1)

Two of Bill Murray's best films will be broadcast on AMCtv tomorrow (I try to avoid recommending television programs available solely by cable, but these films are also readily available elsewhere).

One, Caddyshack (3:30 p.m.), needs no introduction (other than, perhaps, "This crowd has gone deadly silent. Cinderella story. Out of nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion . . .") Murray improvised that scene, by the way: 'Get me four rows of mums,' he told the director. One take later, the world was a better place.

The other, Stripes, is not as familiar, but similarly hilarious. Murray and a pal enlist because their lives and bodies are hapless (assuring a police officer attempting to enforce the no-parking sign outside the recruiting office, "Oh, we're not parking it, officer. We're abandoning it."), quickly learn that military life is more than they bargained for, and nearly as quickly adapt with flair. Many military issues -- gays to psycho-killers, discipline and honor to empty-suit officers, procurement to the all-volunteer force -- are addressed without loss of a single comedic stride.

Groundhog Day is Murray's best, and several other lesser-known Murray films -- Mad Dog and Glory, Kingpin, What About Bob? -- deserve a search through the bargain bin, but Stripes is a standout.

Stripes (1981, directed by Ivan Reitman). Murray, Harold Ramis (Animal House screenwriter), Warren Oates, John Candy. Worth catching on AMCtv, Sunday, June 21, 8 a.m. or 5:30 p.m.

If nothing else, whenever someone says "Lighten up, Francis," from now on you'll understand.

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