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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Sgt. Bilko (1996)



Reviews and Comments

Phil Silvers embodied the character of Sergeant Bilko, on The Phil Silvers Show, so thoroughly, so irrevocably, that one invariably recollects one when thinking of the other. His slick con games, lightning fast thinking in sticky situations, and an uncanny ability to position himself nimbly on anyone's good side were all hilarious and familiar aspects of the character that made the show so great.

Steve Martin, however talented, is not a natural choice for the role in a feature film based on the television series, and it's to his credit that he pulls off a decent and funny performance, however short it falls of Silvers'. Bilko's rackets, in the film, are ridiculously extravagant, carrying Bilko's thirst for moneymaking opportunities too far. Dan Aykroyd turns Paul Ford's character in the TV show (the frustrated base commander and frequent victim of Bilko's schemes) into an uninteresting dimwit, and the men under Bilko are fairly nondescript.

But taken on its own terms, Sgt. Bilko is a pretty funny movie. The humor is lightweight and harmless, but also (with a couple of exceptions) clever. The devilish delight viewers of the show derive from watching Bilko weasel his way out of the most hopeless of situations is preserved intact. The film is fluff, but funny fluff.