Goldie Hawn gets her Stripes
"Private Benjamin" is one of those movies which I haven't watched in years yet I have fond memories of it back in the 80s when I last watched it. Oh what a shame that time has not been kind to "Private Benjamin" as whilst it's still fun and has some memorable scenes it's by no means the riot of comedy which I once remembered it being. In fact where at one point I would have said that "Private Benjamin" was probably Goldie Hawn's best movie it has slid down that list.
All her life Judy (Goldie Hawn - HouseSitter) has dreamed of what she wants from life and now on her wedding day it seems her life is perfect, that is until her husband dies from a heart attack whilst making love to her. Distraught and not knowing what to do Judy finds herself duped into signing up to join the Army. Despite initially struggling to adjust to the tough Army regime and her bullying Captain Doreen Lewis (Eileen Brennan), Judy sets about proving herself by completing her army training. But even having achieved that life doesn't end up as she hoped as she meets sexy French man Henri (Armand Assante - Striptease) who wants to marry her.
One of the things which is still as enjoyable now as it was back in the 80s is the whole set up to "Private Benjamin". You can't but help but laugh when on her wedding night her husband dies of a heart attack whilst having sex on the bathroom floor. It sounds cruel to say laugh, but the scene is pure comedy and perfectly sets up the rest of the movie. What follows in itself isn't that bad where firstly Judy is duped into joining the army and then after coming close to quitting decides to prove herself. There is plenty of laughs, many which are now quite obvious as she struggles with the tough army routine, but they work.
The trouble is that once you get the army training out of the way, which is the best part of the movie, the storyline then drifts off into romantic territory and frankly becomes quite dull. The comedy seems to drift off as does the witty dialogue and for the last 30 minutes you are sort of waiting for it to end. And that is a major problem which wasn't the case when watched back in the 80s but now that weakness really shows and causes what was at the half way point an above average movie to end up as sadly average.
The saving grace of "Private Benjamin" is the comedy of the training camp, the struggle for Judy not only to follow orders, but keep up with the training and also not annoying the other women in her barracks at the same time. It is scene after scene of comedy with such great moments as Private Winter caught in a compromising situation with Captain Woodbridge and the blue dye in the shower scene. Watching "Private Benjamin" many of the gags are quite obvious such as Judy struggling to get over the assault course but they still deliver the comedy that they were designed to.
As for the acting well it wouldn't be cruel if you said that in "Private Benjamin" the lovely Goldie Hawn was playing to type, the slightly ditzy and adorable blond. It's the sort of role that Goldie Hawn made her own during the 80s and although since she has done some more memorable performances it is the comedy which Hawn delivers that makes "Private Benjamin" so much fun.
But Goldie Hawn isn't the only comic talent on show in "Private Benjamin" and whilst there are many recognizable names and faces such as P.J. Soles, Craig T. Nelson, Albert Brooks, Harry Dean Stanton and Armand Assante all delivering amusing performances in one form or another it is Eileen Brennan who almost steals the show. Cast as Capt. Doreen Lewis, Brennan delivers scene after scene of army comedy with her brutal leadership and bullying ways. But it is that shower scene with the blue dye and the following white faced parade scene where Brennan scores the most laughs.
What this all boils down to is that "Private Benjamin" is still good fun but not the riot of comedy I once remembered it for. It has some memorable scenes such as the heart attack during sex and the blue dye shower scene but the actual storyline is where it now suffers especially as it drifts off and becomes quite dull, to the point that you are glad when "Private Benjamin" is finally over.