"In the Army Now" should be arrested for impersonating a comedy.
In fact, any halfway intelligent person who's seen a service comedy could visualize Pauly Shore's new film, and create, in the cineplex of his own mind, not merely a reasonable facsimile but actually a better movie.
Alas, professional movie critics have to see the real thing, if only to confirm their worst suspicions. In this respect, and in this respect only, "In the Army Now" does not disappoint: It is exactly as awful as previews and ads suggest, exactly as lethargic, thinly imagined, overlong and disastrously unfunny.
Yes, in "In the Army Now," Pauly Shore joins the new action army to be all he can be -- in this case, a water purification expert. Yes, he gets his hair cut (shorn, he looks like a pea with a fungus condition.) Yes, his peculiar style of wheedling, gibbering, noodling communication proves an irritant to various career soldiers. Yes, he's picked on by a macho guy. Yes, he and his crew of fellow dweebs end up stuck on a "big mission" in which the fate of the Union rests on them.
In other words, there's not a single surprise anywhere in the film, and the humor ranges from the blank to the bland. Will somebody please tell Hollywood what the rest of us have known for some time -- that Pauly Shore is over? He really has no screen resources, except for that weird, lizard-like spray of sound that seems to spring spontaneously from somewhere south of his larynx, but, strangely, that weapon is rarely deployed here.
Shore, as Bones Conway, joins the reserves with his pal Jack (Andy Dick) when they lose their jobs in a mall electronics store. They need the enlistment bonus to open a video games arcade, the undeveloped irony turning out to be that the modern war they find themselves in is very much like a video game.
The basic training sequence is as standard issue as a G.I. boot sock: olive green, fuzzy and without shape. The movie hustles through it, pausing only to milk a laugh or so out of Bones' irascibility as it irritates a female drill sergeant, well-played by Lynn Whitfield, who looks as if she could be in the Army. But quickly enough, Bones finds himself in a convenient war, a campaign waged against Libyans in a Chad that looks amazingly like Southern California.
This is Hollywood combat at its most irritatingly banal. There's a lost-in-the-desert sequence, complete to a comic vulture and jokes about suntans. There's a capture by Arabs as cruelly and absurdly stereotyped as anything in "True Lies" but with no counterbalancing tonnage of thrills, and of course a simple-minded escape. Finally, there's the comic firefight, in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rounds of ammunition are expended but nobody gets hurt or even breaks much of a sweat. It makes battle look like jolly spiffing fun.
Shore and his little unit will hardly remind you of Delta Force or even members of a basic training platoon who can't count cadence to save their lives. They should be court-martialed on a count of conduct unbecoming a comedy.
"In the Army Now"
Starring Pauly Shore
Directed by Daniel Petrie Jr.
Released by Hollywood Pictures