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MIO Movie Review: In The Army Now

in the army now

From big-budget monstrosities like Twister to stereotypical Sundance fodder such as Rudderless, Oklahoma loves to make a big deal out of any major movies that grace us with their cinematic presence. We’ll close busy streets and demolish entire towns, legalize the murder of hookers and even open a branch of Scientology in Mayfair Village, happily catering to Hollywood’s each and every need, even if it’s only for a split-second scene of Orlando Bloom blankly looking at the OKC National Memorial. Anything that can get us some of that sweet Big League City recognition!

But, for some reason, we didn’t do any of that for Pauly Shore’s 1994 comedy In the Army Now.

There was no big premiere at Penn Square Mall, no autograph signings with the Weiz at Sound Warehouse, no magnet school drama teachers bragging about how they were extras…nothing. What was it about this particular Ft. Sill-lensed motion picture that turned Oklahoma off?

It wasn’t a bad film, per se. It’s actually pretty good by Pauly Shore standards, falling somewhere between Son-In-Law and Bio-Dome. I’d like to think that Gazette Classic film critic (and personal mentor) John Pickard would have called it “a delightfully ribald takedown of the military industrial complex.”

I almost caught In the Army Now at the dollar movie theater on Northwest Expressway, the one that had those “Star Wars lightshow” hallways, but ditched the scene to walk a few miles up the road to the new Best Buy when the girl who said she’d meet me in the arcade stood me up. That day I purchased Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales and a diet Crystal Pepsi in my fit of depression, but would eventually go on to rent Army once or twice from Sound Warehouse, even coupling it with Major Payne the following year as a special tribute to the men and women who risk their lives for me through selfless acts of heroism.

Pauly Shore brilliantly essays the role of Bonez (I’m guessing it has at least one z in it), an electronics store salesman who’d much rather make love to his sweet piece (Fabiana Udenio, the 1980s Salma Hayek), knocking over a whole wall of TVs in the process as he ejaculates because of course that’s what he does. Looking for a new job, he heads over to the Putt-Putt course with pal (and future trainwreck) Andy Dick in tow, wherein they harass a pair of off-duty servicemen for their haircuts.

Instead of a well-deserved beating, this interaction instead gives them the bright idea to sign up for the National Guard, becoming weekend warriors for their country. The pair are shipped off to Ft. Sill wherein they’re immediately greeted by a female drill sergeant and before you can say “I truly respect this woman because I can only imagine the uphill struggles and glass ceilings she’s gone through to attain this position of great importance,” Bonez refers to her as Sgt. Sex-Tits or something just as misogynistic.

My brother, Will, who served in the National Guard and went through basic at Ft. Sill—inspired by this flick, no doubt—said that most of these sequences of gross insubordination rang quite untrue, with such direct sexual harassment of a higher ranking officer resulting in, at the very least, an Article 15, or a few weeks of work without pay. All Bonez gets is 20 push-ups.

Haircuts are had, uniforms are messy and rocket launchers are handled improperly, but, eventually, they make a man out of Bonez, letting him loose on his first mission, water purification in the African country of Chad on the eve of a war with Libya. Along for the ride is a veritable who’s who of superstars: the aforementioned Dick, Lori Petty, David Allen Grier and Esai Fuckin’ Morales.

Of course they are captured by the Libyans, allowing Bonez to make plenty of pro-USA racist remakes about their language and culture, but you gotta remember: it was 1994. Cultural sensitivity was still a concept 30 years away from reaching Oklahoma. Still, this is supposedly justified when we learn that the enemies have a cache of deadly chemical weapons pointed right at the Americans, so no harm, no foul.

Avoiding torture and possible dismemberment through a series of wacky hijinks, most of which involve a preternaturally intelligent camel, the lost squad escapes and helps the US military find the secret Libyan base, destroying it in a bombing run that, while, sure, the enemy is completely neutralized, also possibly kills the large group of children that were seen playing around the area earlier. But, I guess those are just the casualties in a war played for minor comedic effect starring the dude from Encino Man. Nothing like that would happen in real-life, right? Right?

After viewing In the Army Now so many years later, I’m still perplexed as to why we, as a state of cinephiles and sycophants, decided not to make a big to-do about it. It’s got everything Oklahomans live for: patriotism, guns, casual racism, cobras, sexual harassment, anthropomorphic animals that crush the skulls of terrorists and a Samurai Saki House-ready soundtrack featuring KATT-approved bands like Live and Moist. If anybody has any ideas, I’m all ears.

But, in the meantime, with the 20th anniversary of this Made in Oklahoma classic rapidly approaching, I say that we start a petition on to retroactively rectify this gross injustice, forcing the Legislature to recognize this event with both an apology to the makers of In the Army Now, in particular director Daniel Petrie, Jr., as well as creating special a day to honor Mr. Shore, possibly with a parade through Ft. Sill and a career retrospective at DeadCenter. I’d be more than happy to moderate.

Or, you know, we can just move on with our lives. Your call, buudddddy.

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