Making the Grades
With all the television shows that have yet to be turned into theatrical spectacles, how did McHale's Navy get bumped to the top of the list? This expensive remake is loaded with stunts, a stunning surround soundtrack, and explosive effects, yet the script holds the impact of a cap gun.
Minutes into the movie we meet Major Vladikov (Tim Curry), a defective East German with a nowhere accent, and that's when the bombs begin to fly. The retired McHale (Tom Arnold), is enjoying life as supplier of beer, ice cream, and pinup calendars to the locals and his Navy buddies at the nearby base. He is forced to temporarily suspend this role when Vladikov takes aim at him, the residents of his tiny island home, and the rest of the world.
Time to give the Pentagon a call where "Cobra" (Ernest Borgnine, the original McHale), a top official, tells the straight laced base commander to get out of the way and let the carefree drunkard McHale take charge. Ever notice in the movies how guys like McHale are far smarter and more ingenious than someone dedicated to following orders? Scripts like these rarely allow obedient characters to be popular and heroic in the same two hours.
The violence in the film is not of the blood and gore variety. Instead boats, homes, and virtually everything else are blasted away. This destruction is often used for comedic effect, but the script bounces between death and humor too rapidly, leaving the audience wondering when they should laugh. One "funny" example is when Vladikov is annoyed at a bad moment and kills the culprit like swatting a fly, a situation that trivializes murder and creates a conflicting and perhaps dangerous impression for young viewers.
The pyrotechnics crew had a blast making this film and if you just bought a new home theater, you may want to check out McHale's for the explosive soundtrack and surround imaging. For everyone else, McHale's Navy is a comedy that attempts to create a new M*A*S*H but instead leaves behind a big M*E*S*S.