You may be thinking, “This sounds like a female version of Bill Murray’s movie Stripes.” There would only be one thing wrong with that thought – Stripes came out one year after Private Benjamin. It was actually a “male Private Benjamin”. Both films even had a female soldier played by P.J. Soles (different characters, though.) People also remember Stripes for having some future familiar faces among the smaller roles (i.e. John Candy). Well, Private Benjamin led the way there, too. In addition to P.J. Soles, look for appearances by Craig T. Nelson (Poltergeist, Coach, Parenthood) and Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill, My So-Called Life, Big Love).
It was really Eileen Brennan that got the most notice after this film came out. Her tough as nails Captain, who thought she had seen it all until Judy Benjamin showed up, was a great character. As I mentioned at the top, she got an Oscar nomination for her performance, losing to Mary Steenburgen in Melvin and Howard. Brennan would go on to reprise her role in the TV series of the same name that ran from 1981 to 1983.
While this movie is primarily a comedy, it did take a more serious line with women’s empowerment. This was a big issue through the 1970s, so seeing it in a 1980 movie is not surprising. In addition, Hawn had just divorced her husband Bill Hudson (Kate Hudson’s father) and I’m sure the message of a woman going out on her own and succeeding hit close to home for her. Nowadays, the presentation of this issue in the film comes across a little heavy handed, but it’s not so bad that it ruins the movie.
All in all, this film has some good laughs in it. If this story sounds interesting, and especially if you liked Stripes, then I recommend you give this film a try.
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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