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This isn't your father's McHale's Navy - but it is rather funny
on April 5, 2006
Not having seen any of the original McHale's Navy episodes, I can't really compare this film to the television classic - but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the movie is undoubtedly of lower comedic quality than the original series. Judging the film solely on its own merits, it's really not that bad. It's certainly no showcase for sophisticated humor, but it is generally pretty funny throughout. Surely, I'm not the only guy who finds Tom Arnold pretty funny (as long as he's not doing stand-up). The other guys are pretty much hit and miss, though, as they're really just stereotypes. David Alan Grier has his moments as the slow ensign dreaming of lieutenant's stripes, but we've seen the same kind of character act the same way in many a movie already. Originality is not a word you're going to hear in the same sentence as McHale's Navy, I'm afraid.
McHale (Arnold) is a former Navy man who peddles his wares on San Moreno and surrounding Caribbean islands, with many a customer and buddy at the navy base. It's an amazingly undisciplined place, with the guys really living the life of Riley - until, that is, their new CO, Captain Wallace B. Binghamton (Dean Stockwell), best known as the man who sank the Love Boat, arrives. While Binghamton is trying to impart a sense of order at the base, Major Vladikov (Tim Curry), constantly referred to as the second-ranked terrorist in the world, is setting up shop on nearby San Moreno island. To Binghamton's chagrin, the brass in Washington (represented by Cobra, played by none other than Ernest Borgnine) recruits McHale back into active duty in order to find out what Vladikov is up to and then to stop him. Assorted hijinx then ensue as McHale gets his old team back together for one more mission.
The cast is above average for this type of film. Alongside Tim Curry, Ernest Borgnine, and David Alan Grier, you also have the likes of Debra Messing and Bruce Campbell. Unfortunately, none of them are called upon to do all that much with their characters. The film never tries to be anything more than a dumb comedy; even the central plot seems to shrink in upon itself and take a different turn as the end nears. The rather shallow nature of the script plus the negative reaction of many a fan of the original series does much to explain why the movie flopped at the box office. As mindless entertainment, though, you could do much worse than a short tour of duty in McHale's Navy.