The Austin Chronicle

Down Periscope

Rated PG-13, 93 min. Directed by David S. Ward. Starring Kelsey Grammer, Lauren Holly, Rob Schneider, Harry Dean Stanton, Bruce Dern, Rip Torn, William H. Macy, Toby Huss.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 8, 1996

The Wackiest Ship in the Army meets Operation Petticoat at McHale's house. For canasta. Major League director (and, believe it or not, the man who penned 1973's The Sting) David S. Ward torpedoes his once-promising career amidships with this bland, stunningly mediocre salute to the submarine genre that's lost with all hands on board. Lt. Commander Thomas Dodge (Grammer) is up for promotion, and on the brink of receiving his first sub. Trouble is, scheming Admiral Graham (Dern) doesn't think he's got the right stuff. Dodge is a maverick goofball, prone to shooting links atop nuclear submarines and other, less savory, antics. In hopes of scuttling Dodge's promotion, Graham arranges a series of war games in which Dodge -- and his screwball crew -- must pilot a WWII-era diesel sub into U.S. territorial waters and elude the better part of the U.S. nuclear navy. No small feat, but then this isn't Run Silent, Run Deep (or even Crimson Tide , for that matter). Grammer's television-tested broad humor (and Bob Hope profile) fares better than the rest of the cast here; Lauren Holly as a female Dive Commander is thrown in to foul up the all-male crew; and a woefully underused Harry Dean Stanton as the ship's engineer has less to do than a beach ball at 20,000 fathoms; and the rest of the characters are painted in such broad strokes that it's difficult not to confuse them with the supporting cast of Stripes. Down Periscope thankfully never plumbs the same depths of sophomoric armed forces' comedy as reached by such recent fare as In the Army Now, or even the Hot Shots series. Unfortunately, it never manages to rise above them, either. There's barely a belly laugh here, and judging from the deafening silence in the theatre where I saw the film, it's not just me.

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