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BILOXI BLUES

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Neil Simon’s second film in his autobiographical ‘Eugene Trilogy’ is this comedy-drama starring Matthew Broderick (taking over from Jonathan Silverman, who starred in the first film, ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’). The Shout! Factory has given the picture a Blu-ray upgrade, so here’s my review, published on March 25, 1988, in the Deseret News.

Neil Simon has, for some reason, decided it isn’t enough to be funny. He wants to be serious as well.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Most farceurs decide somewhere along the way they want to make the audience cry too. Woody Allen’s movies are both hilarious and serious.

But the difference is Simon isn’t content to inject a serious theme or two. He himself takes his work more seriously than it deserves.

For example, when “Biloxi Blues” is funny, it’s very funny indeed. But when it’s serious, it simply becomes tedious.

     

Christopher Walken, left, Matthew Broderick, 'Biloxi Blues'

Worse, this film, set in a Biloxi, Miss., Army basic training camp during World War II, covers ground that is so familiar it often looks like a dozen other pictures.

That aspect really comes home when Matthew Broderick and buddies go to the theater and we see a clip from Abbott and Costello’s “Buck Privates.” The clip gets a big laugh, illustrating how long ago basic-training comedies came into being — and how much better they were as flat-out comedies.

And more recently we’ve had “Private Benjamin,” “Stripes” and — on a more serious level — “Full Metal Jacket.”

“Biloxi Blues” is a sequel to the equally superficial “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” but it gets a big boost this time out with the presence of Broderick. His comic timing is superb and, as the wisecracking Eugene, particularly in the early scenes, he is simply a delight to watch.

It should also get a big boost from the directing talent of Mike Nichols but his presence isn’t very noticeable in what is really very straight-forward, even flat directing. Between this picture and “Heartburn,” one wonders what has happened to the innovative director who gave us “The Graduate” 20 years ago.

     

Present with Broderick are all the typical boot camp stereotypes — most prominently the psychotic drill sergeant (Christopher Walken). And as well as matching wits with Walken, Broderick also loses his virginity to a local prostitute; meets a sweet girl at a USO dance; learns how much he should and shouldn’t write in his journal if he’s going to leave it unguarded; gains, loses and regains the respect of his peers; and ultimately “grows up” — more or less.

These are, of course, the autobiographical reminiscences of writer Simon, but, true or not, they don’t add up to as much of a movie as he would like.

But there is Broderick and Simon’s hilarious one-liners, and the combination is enough to make this bit of entertainment moderately recommendable.

“Biloxi Blues” is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, vulgarity and a sex scene that seems to be in R-rated territory.