Sgt. Bilko (1996)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Comedy, Military Comedy  |   Release Date - Mar 29, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Karl Williams

One is tempted to say that this middlebrow comedy from director Jonathan Lynn is more fit for television sitcom status, but considering the higher quality level of TV in recent years, that's a specious argument. Steve Martin more than holds his own in the titular lead, wisely adding his own spin on the scheming soldier and eschewing any attempts to mimic Phil Silvers in his classic original incarnation. With the exception of the always reliable and sorely missed Phil Hartman, the rest of the supporting cast of bumbling misfits is far more troubling. Rather than peopling his film with solid comic performers from the ensemble/stand-up/improv tradition, Lynn selects character actors such as Glenne Headley and Max Casella, a poor decision that spins the tone in an ironic, self-aware direction that saps the farcical energy Martin works so hard to muster up. The script's back story involving the infamous Bilko's inability to romantically commit plays as the anachronism it is, with the universally timeless slacker G.I. scenes working far more effectively. Sgt. Bilko (1996) is a mixed bag of a comedy, with a few genuine laughs but an overlying sense of detachment that renders much of its action foolish instead of funny.