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Down Periscope (1996)

This routine military comedy accomplishes two things that I admit to really appreciating.

First off it puts on screen four wonderful character actors who have all flirted with leading roles at one time or another with varied success.

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Harry Dean Stanton, Rip Torn, William H. Macy and the recently Oscar nominated Bruce Dern for Nebraska. I’ll watch these guys in any movie but here’s a chance to see them all working together. And yes I have seen The Incredible Two Headed Transplant with that Dern guy.

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Secondly it recalls the films from the mid to late fifties into the sixties when military comedies were plentiful and really a sub genre of the comedy in itself. Films like Mister Roberts, Operation Petticoat and a handful of Glenn Ford films when he wasn’t making westerns.

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Kelsey Grammer stars here as a rascal of sorts awaiting his first command aboard a submarine in the U.S. Navy. Had this film been made ten years previously it has Dan Aykroyd written all over it. Against Admiral Bruce Dern’s wishes, Rip Torn’s higher ranking Admiral gives Grammer command of his own sub. Grammer isn’t impressed when he finds out it’s a derelict sub from 1958 that’s rusting away in dry dock.

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Rip and Grammer come to an agreement. The old diesel sub is to be used in a set of war games where by if Grammer can get the fish inside a military zone and lay two torpedoes into a target he can move up the chain of command. The main problem is William H. Macy will be aboard a nuclear sub preventing this from happening.

Dern who has a “hate on” for Grammer isn’t any help for television’s Frasier Crane. He assigns him a crew of outcasts including a terrible Rob Schneider and an ancient engineer played by the grizzled Harry Dean Stanton. To add a bit of sexual flavor and fun, Dern assigns Lauren Holly to the crew as well. Cue up the periscope jokes anytime.

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It’s a standard formula as to the outcome which I shouldn’t have to tell you. Let’s just say Dern is going to have one of patented “moments” on screen. I love it when this guy does his thing. It must all stem from seeing him in The Cowboys at an impressionable age.

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This comedy is directed by David S. Ward who also gave us King Ralph and Major League II. Not a lot to recommend here but would you believe he is the credited writer on The Sting!

Grammer does fine here and I would like to add was one of the bright spots in The Expendables 3 this past summer. Not the type of film one would have expected him to turn up in.

Harmless fun that never gets to raunchy thus it can be viewed by most ages. If we could only exorcise Rob Schneider’s annoying performance from the film it would be that much better. Then again I was watching it for the quartet of character actors I have come to appreciate over the years.

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