Sgt. Bilko (1996) – Review

3 Stars

Sgt. Bilko is a pleasing, but slight comedy based on a seminal television show from the 1950’s. This silver-screen adaption stars Steven Martin as the titular character and also features a trio of SNL alumni amongst its hard-working cast. The laid-back vibe of the picture is in keeping with the personality of its lead character, a scheming, lazy, ne’er-do-well Master Sergeant.

Sgt. Ernie Bilko (Martin) heads the motor pool at Fort Baxter. He’s a Master Sergeant and a master manipulator, who runs a gambling ring amongst his various other indiscretions. All of this is happening under the nose of his aloof superior Colonel Hall (Dan Aykroyd), and much to the chagrin of his long-suffering fiancée (Glenne Headly). All of Bilko’s extra-curricular activities on base are threatened when Major Thorn (Phil Hartman), a man with a grudge towards Ernie, decides to tighten up standards on the military grounds.

Steve Martin is well cast as the ever-conniving Bilko. He plays the comedic character as a man with compulsions, but also a conscious. It’s a tricky role that could have easily been handled as smarmy, arrogant, and condescending. The script presents Bilko with interesting dilemmas and the clever resolutions are enjoyable to watch unfold. Director Jonathan Lynn seems to realize that the story is thin, but that doesn’t stop him from making a real movie and not a phoned-in rehash. Sgt. Bilko is innocuous fun.

Director: Jonathan Lynn
Stars: Steve Martin, Phil Hartman, Glenne Headly

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