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Though it's occasionally tasteless and eventually crumbles, STRIPES is an often hilarious film that provided Bill Murray with a perfect opportunity in which to display his comedic skills. Murray stars as John Winger, an irresponsible goof-off who, as the film opens, has just lost his job,
his girl, his apartment and his car. As he ponders his fate with his equally unsuccesful best friend, Russell Zitsky (Harold Ramis), a man who teaches English to recent immigrants, it occurs to him that enlisting in the Army seems to be a sensible career move. He persuades Zitsky to go along on
the adventure and soon they find themselves in boot camp surrounded by a group of misfits that includes the overweight Ox (John Candy), the temperamental Psycho (Conrad Dunn), the dopey Cruiser (John Diehl), and druggie Elmo (Judge Reinhold in his film debut). Given the unenviable task of
presiding over this collection of dolts is tough Army veteran Sgt. Hulka (Warren Oates), and it isn't long before Winger finds his way to the sergeant's bad side. While STRIPES was ideally suited to Murray's wise-ass, rebel-who-has-no-use-for-a-cause character, what really makes the film work is
his relationship with Ramis. The two make a delightful comedy team, with the somewhat more sensible Ramis serving as the perfect foil to Murray. His expressive face and low-key manner provide a comic perspective that serves to enhance Murray's clowning. The rest of the cast is also first-rate,
especially Oates who imbues his weary sergeant with an unexpected wit and intelligence. While basic training has been the subject of countless screen comedies, the subject is one which offers great comic potential, and this film exploits that potential. Unfortunately, it flags considerably once
basic ends and the characters set off on their inane adventure behind enemy lines.