Starring: Damon Wayans, Michael Ironside
Director: Nick Castle
When hardass army killing-machine, Major Benjamin Payne (Wayans), is released from his military duties, he sees no future in civilian life for himself and he longs for a return to the service. As a favour, his old General gets him a role back in the military again – at a school for army cadets. In a typical kids versus adults movie scenario, Payne must take a team of no-hoper cadets from oblivion to winners of the Military Games. I wonder will he do it…
There is the usual array of kids; the fat kid, the smartass kid, the black rap-dude, the kid with the big ears and the young-and-left-out-of-everything-because-he=s-too-small kid. Also thrown in for good measure is the token love interest in the shape of the sensitive teacher played by the attractive unknown, Karyn Parsons.
So far it sounds like the usual kids-turned-heroes mush along the lines of ‘Little Giants’, ‘The Big Green’ or ‘Champions’ but surprisingly ‘Major Payne’ turns out to be better than all of the above. There is one reason why.
Damon Wayans. Wayans is arguably the most underused comedy talent of recent times, and he once again takes a hand in writing the screenplay to one of his movies, and it shows. His performance is comical; from his over-the-top descriptions of how he likes to maim POWs to his physical comedy, in this case a sample of 1980s robotic dancing. His dialogue (which he no doubt wrote) is sharp and witty. When Cadet Tiger complains about being left out of everything because he is so small, Payne replies: ‘Phooey. What about all the small people who achieved big things – Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, Spike Lee….’
This film is far less cliche ridden than you would expect and in fact the cliches are more or less at a suitable level. I think one of the main reasons I liked this film is that Wayan=s character rarely crumbles from his tough military image. Just when you think he is going to go all slushy, he counters with a dose of edgy, violent, murderous language which in itself is always funny. Top marks to the director for this.
While it is no ‘Kingpin’ (one of the best comedies of the 90s), it is an excellent straight-to-video title which for the easy-going viewer, is bound to entertain. Also look out for a short appearance from former film star, Michael Ironside.