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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS"


 
My reason for wanting to review No Time For Sergeants is simple: I've spent my whole life hearing my dad talk about how he saw it thirteen times as a kid, and how it is one of the funniest movies he's ever seen. For many years, finding a copy of the film was impossible, so when I found out it was becoming available from Warner Home Video, I knew it was time to see what the fuss was all about. And you know what? He was right - it's funny stuff.

Andy Griffith gives a winning performance as farm boy Will Stockdale, who is drafted into the Air Force. While not exactly the most book-smart feller who ever lived, Will has undeniable common sense. He also tends to fail upwards. After being tricked into cleaning the latrines, Will does such an immaculate job that his commanding officer, Sgt. Orville King (Myron McCormick), assigns him to be the permanent latrine officer. However, Will's gung-ho attitude ends up creating trouble, leaving a frustrated Sgt. King with no choice but to get rid of him by helping to ensure that he passes some competency exams.

This is really a movie made by the performances. Andy Griffith convincingly plays the unsophisticated Will without ever turning him into a caricature. The character could easily have come across as an idiot, but Griffith finds the humanity inside him, and that's what makes it so funny. Myron McCormick is just as strong, showing the ability to humorously play frustration in a hundred different ways. His is a tour de force comedic performance. There is also a terrific cameo from Don Knotts as an easily irritated evaluator. I loved watching these actors perform, as each of them has impeccable timing. Director Mervyn LeRoy is equally skilled behind the camera, displaying a deft touch at staging the comic set pieces.

Certain story aspects in No Time For Sergeants seem a little dated now, and the story drags on a bit too long in the final half hour. Even so, the comedy in the movie holds up very well. Warner Home Video has done a beautiful job transferring the film to DVD; it looks fantastic. No Time For Sergeants is ripe for re-discovery by a new generation, and ripe for re-visiting by those who remember it fondly. One last thing: the picture's most famous scene - in which Will rigs a bank of toilets to raise their seats in salute to a commanding officer - is every bit as hilarious as my dad always claimed it was.

( out of four)

No Time For Sergeants - Own it on DVD May 4


No Time For Sergeants is unrated, but suitable for all ages. The running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.

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