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Weekend Warriors
(a.k.a. Hollywood Air Force)
(1986)

Director: Bert Convy  
Cast:
Chris Lemmon, Lloyd Bridges, Graham Jarvis


Although I'm your typical guy who likes B movies, and I love to watch various B movies that millions of people have seen and heard of, I tend to watch those particular kinds of B movies during my private time. Seldom on this site will you come across a B movie that is pretty popular, and the vast majority of those rare times happen to be B movies that weren't famous when I first reviewed them but in the years that followed built a strong cult, like Troll 2. I've talked about this before, and I'll talk about it again: When I am exposed to the public to one degree or another, I like to act in a non-conformist manner. At my place of employment, for example, I typically do the tasks that no one else does. Actually, I have the suspicion that I do the tasks that no one else wants to do. Still, I feel lucky to be able to work in an environment that makes me unique among all the people that work there. I know for a fact that there are some jobs where it would be difficult, if not impossible, to stand out from the rest of the pack. Or for that matter be unwise to stand out from the rest of the pack. There are various sport-related jobs for example. I would stand out from the other people on my team, though only because I am completely hopeless at any sports. Then there are various jobs that involve enforcing rules and standards. I wouldn't like to be a member of the police force, because my idea of enforcing the law would be to give the people I arrest their rights... as well as a few lefts. Then there are positions in the military. That would be extremely deadly for me, because in the military there is precious little room for individualism. Everyone has to act alike and work as a team. I know that I would soon go crazy stuck in there.

Although there is absolutely no way I would ever sign up to be a police officer or a solider, that doesn't mean I can't get any enjoyment from these professions. As you have probably guessed, the pleasure I get from these professions comes from the many movies that I watch on a regular basis. Certainly I like seeing movies about police officers and soldiers that are serious in nature - it can be very interesting and entertaining to learn about these career fields when seeing these people in action. But I must confess that one of my guilty pleasures is to see various kinds of goofball characters placed in the police, military, or some other kind of group of authority. And I think many people would agree with me, because over the years there have been a number of hit movies with this theme, such as Stripes or the many Police Academy movies. This begs the question as to why movies like those examples have often proven to be so popular. I may have an answer for that, an answer I once read in a review of Police Academy. The reviewer I read felt the movie was so popular because the institute in question didn't really change the various goofball characters, and that the characters managed to succeed in their positions despite themselves. I would also add that the characters in this movie (and other movies like it) manage to get away with thumbing their nose repeatedly at the authority that was trying to control them. So as we watch movies like this, many people in the audience think, "Gee, I wish I could get away with doing stuff like that."

However, now that you know my feelings about the matter, I have to make another confession about my movie habits. This new confession is that while I do seek out movies that involve non-conformists in positions of discipline and power, and thumbing their nose at the establishment, I Weekend Warriorshave to confess that most of these movies that I've watched I haven't found all that amusing. More often than not I find the humor in these movies extremely lazy and very simple-minded. But I keep looking for such movies with the ever eternal hope that I'll find a good example. That's where Weekend Warriors comes in, and one reason why I decided to watch it. Another reason was that it was directed by Bert Convy - yes, the host of game shows like Win, Lose, Or Draw and Super Password. No, I didn't have high hopes with Convy being the director, but I felt that if he would fail, it would be in a spectacular way, giving me plenty of ammunition to write a scathing review. Here's the synopsis that was on the back of the video box: "Weekend Warriors... we may have to call out the National Guard to save us all from the platoon that loves to party. It's Hollywood, 1961. If you're an aspiring 'show business type', the only way to avoid the draft is to volunteer two weekends a month as 'Weekend Warriors' with the National Guard. Sergeant Burge (Vic Tayback) is saddled with a platoon made up of a gossip columnist, a boxer, a 'mortician to the stars', 'doo-wop' singers and various other crazies who, despite the help of Colonel Archer (Lloyd Bridges), blow the big inspection with a Washington Senator. They are punished by being placed into active duty. Given one final chance, they decide they must do what they do best... put on a 'Hollywood extravaganza' showcasing the American military strength that will knock the Senator right on his brass. Weekend Warriors... a hilarious comedy that asks the question, 'What are you doing this weekend?'"

Actually, as it turns out in the actual film, the various Hollywood oddballs only have to volunteer one weekend a month, not two. One can't help but wonder if the video box writers actually watched the finished movie. But since everything else about the description is accurate, I'll assume they did, and get back to critiquing the actual movie. As it turns out, there are a couple of positive things to say about Weekend Warriors. Since it takes place in the past, it should come as no surprise that there are some welcome golden oldies played on the soundtrack. Though as it turns out, the total number of golden oldies that are played amounts to only about six songs, which is just one of the clues that director Bert Convy wasn't exactly working with a lavish budget. Despite the apparent low budget, however, Convy was able to round up a group of actors who come across as a very talented bunch of people, even though most of them were unknowns at the time (and remained unknowns years after the movie.) But despite the actors having a considerable amount of talent, the characters that they play for the most part are not characters that manage to be likable or engaging enough towards the audience. There are several reasons why this is so. The first reason is that there is not one main character (or a small group of characters) for the audience to hang onto during the evolving story. I think that one of the characters, a soldier named Vince Tucker, who is played by Chris Lemmon (the real life son of Jack Lemmon) was supposed to be a kind of leader, one that the events were supposed to center around. (The character does narrate on the soundtrack several times during the movie, for one thing.) But neither he nor the rest of the characters on the base make a strong enough screen presence. Quite often the movie feels like it was made by communist filmmakers, giving everyone an equal share of the pie and not letting anyone take real charge of any of the situations.

But it's not just that not one character in the movie takes real command at any time. Another problem with the characters in Weekend Warriors is that for the most part they are lacking any real color to differentiate themselves from each other. Yes, the soldiers on this National Guard base may include a gossip columnist, a boxer, a mortician, as well as doo-wop singers, but there is virtually nothing done with these talents these soldiers have. Nor are these soldier characters given any real quirks with their personalities to make them stand out from the rest of the pack. They all act alike and speak alike for virtually all of the movie. They aren't individual characters; they are just one mob of people. It's possible that if this mob did and said things that tickled us and made them endearing that the movie still could have worked. But it doesn't take long for these characters to create a sour taste in the mouth of those of us in the audience. In fact, it happens in the first couple of minutes of the movie. We are told through Lemmon's narration that he and all of his show-business friends have joined the National Guard only because that there is a draft, and joining the National Guard is a way to escape the draft. While I can understand that many of us would rather avoid active duty during tense times, at the same time you can't help but feel these characters are both selfish and cowards. These bad feelings towards these characters just increase when you see them on base. Instead of taking their military duties seriously, they come across as irresponsible jerks. Yes, there have been military comedies like Stripes that boast lovable and hilarious goof-offs who stick it to their superior officers and the military in general, and generate plenty of laughs. But the soldiers in Weekend Warriors have not been written in a way that makes us in the audience side with them.

One other reason that you won't be rooting for the soldiers in Weekend Warriors is that their superior officers have not been made into hateful enough individuals that deserve punishment. Lloyd Bridges' Colonel character, for one thing, is made to be a nice guy that clearly doesn't deserve the goof-offs that he commands. Other superior officers and senior officials are given very little time to make them hateful enough characters, let alone characters of real depth. When Senator Balljoy (ha ha) first appears during his inspection of the base, it's only when his inspection is almost complete. We are not given a chance to build hate towards him, so when he stumbles upon soldiers lighting their flatulence, we are instead on his side when he declares that the flatulence lighting is the final straw, and that the soldiers will be placed on active duty in Europe. That flatulence lighting, by the way, probably gives you an idea of the desperate and lame sense of humor to be found in the movie. There are a couple of times when the narrative comes to a halt so that a character can tell a dirty joke to his friends, jokes that were old even back in 1961. There is dialogue that doesn't sound anything like what real life people speak, like when one character calls another an "anus-eyed idiot". There is tired slapstick, like driving an army jeep into a car wash, or acting like a dog in order to get a medical exemption from the brass. There's more, but I'll just say that whatever kind of humor Weekend Warriors attempts, not once is it funny enough to crack even a small smile on your lips. In fact, the only thing associated with this movie that's the least bit funny is the knowledge that director Bert Convy apparently thought so well of this project that he also took the position of executive producer. With Convy obviously so misguided, maybe a documentary about the making of Weekend Warriors would be a lot funnier than the fiction movie itself.

(Posted July 24, 2014)

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See also: Crime Busters, King Frat, Making The Grade

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