Monday, March 09, 2015

Great Guns (1941)

Weak service comedy, clearly inspired by the blockbuster success of Abbott and Costello's BUCK PRIVATES earlier the same year. Laurel and Hardy are valets to a wealthy, pampered young man who gets drafted into the army, and enlist with him in order to protect him. The young man quickly adapts to army life, proving there is absolutely nothing wrong with him, but Laurel and Hardy cause no end of troubles for their long-suffering sergeant.

GREAT GUNS must rank as one of the least inspired of the team's post-Hal Roach comedies. There are too many scenes that portray the boys as idiots and simpletons, scenes crafted to make the audience laugh at them, rather than with them. The romantic subplot (involving the young man's romance with an army base shopgirl and his rivalry with the sergeant for her affections) is -- thankfully -- actually not as intrusive as it could have been, but Laurel and Hardy still have too few scenes to themselves, instead often being forced to carry the exposition and fawn over their young master. The "war games" finale allows them a few moments of the old slapstick, however, which give the film a bit of energy toward the end. What they really needed were a few relaxed, extended scenes where they could do the kind of leisurely-paced routines that they did better than anyone else.

Produced by Sol Wurtzel's "B" unit at Fox, it is sloppily constructed with a plodding script which works against the lightness and relaxed pacing that marked their best work. The team would go on to make marginally better films for the studio, though none of them approached the quality that they had achieved with Hal Roach.

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