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In the Army Now – How good is the comedy about real-life reserves?

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Pauly Shore defined my young sense of humor and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that. It was the early 90s, and I was a little kid, so have some mercy. Encino Man was one of my favorite movies and that got me started on the Pauly Shore kick. Recently for nostalgia’s sake, I rewatched In the Army Now, a film I remember watching several times on VHS when I was little. It oddly formed a lot of my opinions on what boot camp would be like, and to be fair, it wasn’t too off the money.

In the Army Now

In the Army Now follows in the footsteps of films like Stripes, although it isn’t as funny nor has the same cult appeal. In the Army Now stars Pauly Shore as Bones and Andy Dick as Jack; both are lovable losers who dream of owning their own electronics store. After getting fired, they bump into two reservists and get the bright idea to join the Army Reserves, enticed by a 2,500-dollar bonus and what they assume is an easy paycheck.

Pauly Shore as Bones and Andy Dick as Jack (Holywood Pictures)

The two choose to be Water Purification Specialists figuring out that as reserves they’d be the last ones ever deployed and even if they are, they’ll be so far from combat that they’d never have to worry. But this isn’t the case, as wars have shown…

The Gulf War was only a few years passed when the movie came out. During that war, a Water Purification Unit from the reserves suffered the highest casualty rate of any American unit during the war when a Scud missile struck its barracks, resulting in an 81% casualty rate. (God Bless the men and women of the 14th Quartermaster Detachment.)

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Checking the boxes

It feels like whenever you make a military film, you have to check some boxes. The audience wants to see the boot camp scenes, the haircutting scenes, and some form of pugil sticks. Those boxes are all checked in In the Army Now. Their portrayal is more comedic and over-the-top than most military movies’ and features some zany antics by Pauly Shore.

This part of the film establishes an interesting baseline for the rest of the film. It never makes fun of the Army but of Shore and Dick. They are idiots, and the Army is seen as putting up with them.

(Holywood Pictures)

The primary drill sergeant, Drill Sergeant Ladd, played by Lynn Whitfield, is fantastic. I actually thought she might have been in the Army. She plays the role well and isn’t over-the-top (at least for a drill sergeant). She yells, motivates, and trains. Even though the main characters are clearly idiots, she and the Army do not give up on them, and Bones eventually gets really good at push-ups.

Speaking of physical training, we see a formation doing what’s called Front, Back in authentic Army PT uniforms of the time. In fact, several scenes were shot at Fort Sill with actual trainees filling in for extras.

Later we are introduced to Bones’s crew, including Lori Petty and David Allen Grier, at his MOS school. Petty and Grier join Bones and Jack for the rest of the film.

Their unit is soon deployed to Chad, as it turns out the Libyans are invading the country and Water Purification units are needed because it’s the desert, and we need water to fight! The rest of the film follows the crew through their deployment.

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Cast, crew, and cameos

(Holywood Pictures)

The cast is okay. Pauly Shore is Pauly Shore, and Andy Dick is just Andy Dick. Lori Petty is always great, and here she plays a tough-as-nails Soldier who wanted to be infantry, but at the time of the movie, women weren’t allowed in combat roles. David Allen Grier is a dental student facing some fears and has joined the Army to overcome them. Both work well with the material given. We also get Brendan Fraser in a cameo role.

In the Army Now is a comedy film but it’s not that funny: I chuckled here and there, but most of its jokes were predictable, and you won’t see any groundbreaking military humor.

I was never in the Army or the Reserves, so I went to the Army’s Reddit and looked at their opinion of the film. According to a few commenters, it’s the most realistic portrayal of the Army reserves, with one commenter saying it’s more realistic than the Hurt Locker.

Take that for what you will. In the Army Now is very 1990s, for better or worse, and it’s a bit of a time capsule of the era. It’s MTV and Nintendo, on top of some Army recruiting mottos many of us likely remember. It’s not a great film, but an enjoyable watch.

Feature Image: “In the Army Now” theatrical poster. (Holywood Pictures)

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.