Starring: Goldie Hawn, Eileen Brennan, Armand Assante
Director: Howard Zieff
Running Time: 109 mins
Private Benjamin is an American film about a sheltered young woman who, after her marriage quickly turns sour, decides to join the army. However, she soon realises the job is a lot more than she was expecting.
Starring Goldie Hawn in what would become a well-trodden role for the actress, Private Benjamin is certainly a fluffy, easy-going comedy, but it’s neither funny nor interesting enough to really entertain. Apart from a good few laughs here and there, it’s far from a riot of giggles throughout.
If there’s one thing to really like about this movie, however, it’s Goldie Hawn. Playing a young woman from a wealthy background who is unexpectedly thrust into a far grittier lifestyle (similar to her future role in Overboard), Hawn is really likable here, and brings great energy to a comedy that’s sometimes lacking in that department.
It could have been easy for Hawn to play a whiney, irritating young woman who just can’t hack it in the army, but she manages to bring her character’s tragic back story into play nicely, blending it with lovable charisma that makes it easy for you to sympathise with her just as you laugh along with her.
Where her character lacks, however, is in an almost inspiring sense of mediocrity. Despite her comfortable upbringing, she’s entirely unremarkable as an army recruit, and so endears those around her with a unique yet clearly mediocre approach to the military.
The film is very reminiscent of Stripes, starring Bill Murray as a slacker who effectively breaks the military with his laid-back but inexplicably effective techniques. In Stripes, Murray’s total mediocrity is as inspiring as it is hilarious, and it’s a joy to watch him succeed, whereas Hawn’s character doesn’t quite have that side to her.
Meanwhile, the film doesn’t quite have the consistently funny comedy to really entertain you all the way through. That’s not to say that it’s an entirely boring watch, because some of the troops’ silliest antics did make me giggle a little.
However, Private Benjamin isn’t a film that’s full of wall-to-wall laughter, instead proving a fairly underwhelming comedy that, despite a good central performance, is neither hugely interesting nor hilarious. And that’s why I’m giving it a 6.7 overall.