McHale’s Navy (review)

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Gimme a B!

McHale’s Navy (starring Tom Arnold, Tim Curry, Dean Stockwell) is surprisingly amusing. It’s a tale of stolen satellite codes and nuclear terrorism and– oh, it doesn’t even matter.

What McHale’s Navy is really about is Tom Arnold running around with a bunch of goofballs like Bruce Campbell, French Stewart, David Alan Grier, and Tommy Chong, all of them getting into trouble and being silly and of course saving the day in the end. Tim Curry is their nemesis — the second-best terrorist in the world — parodying Bond baddies by doing really nasty things like committing “a completely unmotivated random killing” (as he says to himself with a chuckle) and tearing up the local Little League baseball field.
McHale’s Navy — and I mean this in the best way possible — is a lot like the B movies of old. No huge stars, no Oscar-caliber anything, but diverting and entertaining. Hollywood doesn’t seem to believe in B movies anymore — everything has to be a blockbuster, even a fun little movie based on a mostly forgotten TV show. Tom Arnold is not a favorite of mine, but he is fine within a limited range (he was perfect in True Lies, for example). However, he’s forced to stray from that range in McHale’s Navy in a couple of rather ridiculous action sequences more suited to Bruce Willis and a few sentiment-laden moments that toss him into the deep end of the pool and leave him to sink.

My suggestion to Hollywood: Make more movies like McHale’s Navy, but punch up the verbal and physical humor. More witty sight gags. (I know funny is hard, but try.) Forget action sequences — a movie like this one can’t compete with a Die Hard or an Aliens, so don’t even bother. Use more clever actors like Bruce Campbell (who can do no wrong) and Tim Curry (who’s almost always underutilized) and take full advantage of their talents. And avoid those attempts at “Oscar moments” — Tom Arnold is never going to win an acting award, no matter how many dewy-eyed children he promises to take care of.

Not every movie needs to be huge. A break from things exploding and actors emoting would be nice every now and then.

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