COMBAT HIGH - COMBAT ACADEMY

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Combat AcademyImagine you're a young George Clooney, and you're about to debut in this 96 minute movie made in 1986, Directed by: Neal Israel, and Starring: Keith Gordon, Wally Ward, with Robert Culp. How would you feel about it, huh? Thankful to be in work? Sad to be involved in such a slap-dash project? Or... errr... how do I put it? Indifferent. Hmmm? Let's see, shall we?


Combat Academy


THE STORY:
Try to imagine if you will. You're one of two pranksters who've been forced to join a Military School because of your zany shenanigans, and now you have to take heed of such people as General Ed Woods (Robert Culp), his son, Major Bif (George Clooney), plus some chubby looking girl called Andrea (Dana Hill).

But wait up. Before I continue, I want you to choose who you'd like to be out of these two roguish rascals. Would it be Max Mendelsson (Keith Gordon)? The so-called leader of this double-act that instigates these jovial deed's for the shear hell of it! Or would it be Perry Barnett (Wally Ward)? The stuttering simpleton who decides to part ways with Max when he grows fond of a pretty cadet named Mary Beth (Tina Caspary).

Yeah. I thought you'd choose that one. I would do. I won't tell the other one though. No way. I'm sure he'd rather spend his time trying to get out of this school no matter what Biff or anyone else says or does.

However, whilst saying that, you do realize that the Russian are coming, don't you? A Russian Military school that is, who'll most probably cause major panic in the barracks, as well as what next to transpire to be all a matter of perspective. As friends drift and parry - I find a Russian called Barry - a major is misunderstood - plus please remember, a little discipline will do you a lot of good.

BOOOM! Or maybe not.




THE REVIEW:
Now if you take such notable classic comedies as 'Police Academy' and 'Stripes', and then mix them both together in a very amateurish way, I'm nigh on positive you'd end up with 'Combat High'. Ah-huh. I'm sorry to say this, folks. But this is one of those piss poor productions that could have been a lot better if someone sat down and tried to condense the overall narrative and give it some much needed humour.

Hey! Don't take this the wrong way. This picture isn't total pants. It did eventually tell a story that had some positive attributes to it. Yet, for the life of me, it didn't do this with enough polish and enough sheen to make it a very memorable movie at all.

Keith Gordon, Wally Ward and Tina Caspary in Combat Academy
Here. Check out this bullet-point summation for my reasons why. (1) For the majority of this movie the main focus of it, Max Mendelsson, came across as one of the most irritating characters I've ever seen on screen. To me, he was so un-relatable to begin with; I was actually rooting for the antagonists whenever he played one of his so-called practical jokes. Granted, about forty-five minutes into this movie he did redeem himself in part. Still, I'm not quite sure if this was enough in retrospect. (2) Can an eighties movie be too eighties? Listen. I'm not trying to sound like a snob or anything. It's just that this project seemed to pander to eighties sensibilities and style to such an extent, indirectly, it impeded the humor, and made the whole thing very-very-very dated. (3) Even though on occasion this comedy was funny, by in large it just wasn't. Yeah. Straight up. Certain jokes felt very flat. Certain characters felt like jovial cameos. And all in all most of the quips were very groan-worthy to say the least. (4) Cinematically the structure of this story was all over the place, and didn't have that grounded center needed, to develop character, plot, or focus. (5) I felt that there were three sub-plots inserted into this film which wasn't given as much screen time needed to make them more enveloping by nature. One of them was the 'George Clooney Daddy issue' sub-plot: Which was good, but not as punchy and relevant within the scheme of things. The second one was the 'Perry's in Love' sub-plot: Which was nice, yet didn't flow very naturally amongst the rest of this picture. And the third one was the 'Andrea Love Dilemma' sub-plot: Which, like the other two, was very touching at times, but felt a bit 'tagged in' for the sake of a conclusion. Shame. A real shame. As in essence these three story-stands were the real heart of this flick.


George Clooney in Combat High


Combat Academy Cast
Hey! Take a quick peek below, and guess what I will be doing next. Yep. That's correct. It's time for some filmic-facts. (1) 'Highlight Video' first released this production on the very same day that the Japanese filmmaker, Yasuzo Masumura, passed away -- the 23rd of November, 1986. (2) Most of this movie was shot on location throughout the state of Missouri. This included the Kemper Military School, Boonville, plus the district of Liberty. (3) As alluded to in my introduction, yes, this was George Clooney's first film role. Poor George, ha! (4) If you look very closely at the scene where Maxwell puts his sticker on the back of the army truck, you might notice that he puts it on straight, yet, a moment later, when the truck drives away; it's on at an angle. Ops! Slight glitch. (5) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Two against the Military' in Hungary; 'Loca Combat Academy' in Spain; and 'All Naja' in Italy. (6) I kid you not, quite a few real life military students and instructors acted as extras and consultants during the making of the film. (7) Considering this comedy was directed by the same chap who directed 'Police Academy', Neal Israel, and starred such hopefuls as our mate George, Richard Molls, and Jamie Farr, it was still a commercial and critical failure, and went straight to video. (8) Not so long after this flick was filmed, Keith Gordon starred in an episode of 'Miami Vice', Wallace Langham starred in an episode of 'Our House', and Elya Baskin starred in an episode of 'St. Elsewhere'.


Wally Ward and Tina Caspary in Combat High


Overall 'Combat High' was a film very much for it's time. The cast did OK. The story-line was somewhat philandering. And, if I'm going to be honest about it, I'd rather watch 'Police Academy' or 'Stripes', if one of them was showing at the same time this was on.

Ouch! Nuff said.

THE RATING: C