What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?

Synopsis: War Is Hell… And Isn’t It Fun?

James Coburn (The Magnificent Seven), Dick Shawn (The Producers), Carroll O’Connor (TV’s All in the Family) and Harry Morgan (TV’s M*A*S*H) star in this hilarious film from comedy master Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther, Victor/Victoria) and Oscar-Winning screenwriter William Peter Beatty.

It’s World War II Italy and by-the-book Captain Lionel Cash (Shawn) is sent by his general (O’Connor) to take over a troop of misfit soldiers, led by the wily and resourceful Lieutenant Christian (Coburn). Cash’s orders? To capture a nearby village. He finds the Italian soldiers eager to surrender, but first they insist that the Americans join them in a night of carousing at the local festival. By the time everyone comes to, the entire German and American armies are certain a pitched battle is in progress. Who wins? Who loses? Who ends up in the village beauty’s bed? War may be hell, but it sure can be fun!

What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? 5.0

I have to start by saying that I thoroughly dislike war-related films as a general rule (although there are a couple exceptions, such as ‘Casualties of War’ and ‘Paths of Glory’).

I find them repetitive, frequently superfluous, additions to our pop landscape. But, mostly, I don’t really understand the appeal of wartime eras. I mean, war if is not fun and games whatsoever, and while cinema should also be thought-provoking, I don’t really want to think about war more than necessary – beyond how to avoid it, obviously.

So, having said this, I fail to see the pleasure in watching countries kill each other’s citizens for power and prestige (despite their purported intention). Turn it into a comedy or a satire, however, and maybe you’ll be able to reel me in – case-in-point: Dr. Strangelove, M*A*S*H.

Which leads me to Blake Edwards’ dismally dull ‘What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?’…

It’s pretty much the on-screen shenanigans of American soldiers who, in the process of liberating an Italian village, end up getting all too friendly with the locals. It’s a tad more complicated than this and there are twists, of course, but I won’t reveal them – even if I don’t suspect this film will make it very high on anyone’s “must-see” list.

In short: I saw a lot of contrived situational humour, lots of failed attempts at jokes and poor comedic timing. I saw a fairly uninteresting set of characters, a threadbare story (that I’ve enjoyed elsewhere before ;), and a pretty standard production – nothing outstanding or noteworthy.

The worst, for me, was leading man Dick Shawn – a whiny, annoying bore who I couldn’t wait to see off the screen whenever he was on. I can’t imagine who thought that he was the perfect actor to build a film around, but they were off their rocket launcher. Maybe it was just serious miscasting, but, consequently, I wouldn’t want to ever see another one of his films; it was a total turn-off.

From a technical standpoint, this is not a bad movie. And I’m sure that some people would say that the humour tickles their funny bone in just the right way. But I defy anyone to say that this is a memorable feature. So, without the support of its comedy, as was the case for me, it’s utter blandness. Meh.

What do you think?

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