Military Intelligence And You! (Pax Americana, NR)

miay-header.jpgThe film is at its funniest when its barbs are aimed not at the silliness of the past, but on the lack of military intelligence, or intelligence at all, in the present.




"The Greatest Generation" is a pretty lofty title to heft on any group of people, but when Tom Brokaw bestowed that appellation on the Americans that fought and won World War II, few even batted an eye. The 1940s were a storied time when men were men, dames were dames, and the American military were an unquestioned righteous force battling against an unspeakable evil.

Dale Kutzera’s hilarious new film Military Intelligence And You! is both a celebration and a send-up of that uber-patriotism, simultaneously mocking the attitude while implying how nice it would be if only the modern world were as black and white as the 1940s always seemed. The film melds footage taken from actual 1940s military training and educational films (featuring William Holden, Alan Ladd, and the fortieth president of these United States, the one and only Ronald Reagan, among others) with newly shot footage of a group of military intelligence officers, blending them together as parallel stories of Americans trying to track down the home base of a Nazi "Ghost Squadron." Kutzera presents the resulting film as if it were an unearthed historical document, blending the two together into its own training film, albeit a very seriously demented one.

Narrator Clive Van Owen gets all the best lines. Over footage of a stoic young soldier waving goodbye to mom and dad as his best girl walks him to the train station, Owen informs us the young man is PFC Jimmy Ryan from "Main Street, USA, where all men are created equal, regardless of what Northern European country they come from." Later, Packard Cummings, a young radar pilot, had "hoped for a cushy Stateside post, narrating training films." The new footage, like Owen’s narration, is gloriously deadpan, bringing to mind the classic Jim Abrahams/Zucker Brothers movies of the early 1980s (Airplane!, Top Secret!). The hero is Major Nick Reed (Patrick Muldoon), the stone-faced, gravel-voiced intelligence officer attempting to track down the Ghost Squadron’s hidden base. When he arrives at Central Command, he runs into Lt. Monica Tasty (Elizabeth Bennett), his former lover and a woman whose sole job appears to be delivering bad news, and her new boyfriend Major Mitch Dunning (Mackenzie Astin).

Kutzera blends the two eras of film together flawlessly. Sometimes, the fixed nature of the old footage is used for comedic effect, as when Reed calls Cummings to send him out on a reconnaissance mission. The footage of Cummings is of the soldier calling home; rather than redub or edit the footage, Kutzera has Reed repeatedly ask the soldier to stop calling him "Ma." Several different older films are mushed together—training on how to act as a prisoner of war and how to prepare for your first time on the battlefield are two of the major ones—tied together perfectly by the modern footage and the over-the-top narration. It all ties up in a gloriously ham-fisted salute to the red, white, and blue that’d bring a tear to your eye if it wasn’t splitting your sides.

Granted, Military Intelligence And You! is a one-joke movie, but at 78 minutes, it fortunately doesn’t overstay its welcome. The film is at its funniest when its barbs are aimed not at the silliness of the past, but on the lack of military intelligence, or intelligence at all, in the present. Much of this falls on the lap of the hapless, moronic general (John Roxey Moore), whether directly quoting Donald Rumsfeld or his skillful use of color-coding ("Raise the threat level from tangerine to butterscotch!"). But the best line of all is saved for Owen’s narration, as he utters the film’s most pointed yet hilarious attack. "Attacking without complete intelligence," he intones with mock gravity, "is the kind of bold, decisive action Americans are known for. Knowing we may invade any place at any time strikes fear into the hearts of our enemies and allies alike." As Homer Simpson would say, it’s funny ‘cuz it’s true. | Jason Green

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