The Pentagon procurement machinery has long been ripe for spoof. Multi-billion-dollar cost overruns, packs of weapons-manufacturer lobbyists, and systems that are given to occasional substandard performance are tantamount to a four-star taxpayer shakedown. At the least, it was certain that, someday, a movie would get us to laugh about it. Alas, after GOING...read more
The Pentagon procurement machinery has long been ripe for spoof. Multi-billion-dollar cost overruns, packs of weapons-manufacturer lobbyists, and systems that are given to occasional substandard performance are tantamount to a four-star taxpayer shakedown. At the least, it was certain
that, someday, a movie would get us to laugh about it. Alas, after GOING UNDER, produced in the spirit of AIRPLANE! and THE NAKED GUN, we are still waiting.
A Pentagon Naval fat cat, Admiral Malice (Ned Beatty), is solicited by weapons salesmen. Among the devices peddled is an Imaging Room that will provide Navy ships with a computer-generated 4D reality (a la the holodeck of "Star Trek: The Next Generation") in which sailors long at sea can lose
themselves. Malice demurs until a payoff is offered, at which point he exclaims "I'll take it!" and stamps the file "top secret." Malice attends a meeting with the Secretary of State, Mr. Neighbor (Roddy McDowall). This Mr. Rogers look-alike orders Malice to launch the stealth submarine "USS
Substandard," not by next spring, but by next week.
Malice's limousine, with staff members and lobbyists scurrying behind, pulls up to the headquarters of WRT, the weapons conglomerate of Mr. Wedgewood (Robert Vaughn). His corporate slogan: "National Defense at Your Expense." This cool, cynical capitalist, in the best robber-baron tradition,
proclaims that the cold war was good for business; in the midst of the downturn, another war will just have to be found. He agrees to the hasty debut of "Substandard," but admonishes Malice to "cut corners."
Captain Biff Banner (Bill Pullman) undergoes therapy with a Navy psychiatrist. The scene takes a funny turn when the shrink acts like a snarling drill sergeant and berates Banner for his claustrophobia. In a recent panic, he drove his submarine right up a California beach. Banner, however, is
exactly the kind of skipper Admiral Malice wants for the sub's inaugural cruise. Furthermore, he orders his staff to deploy "Substandard" with the "worst crew ever."
Banner is sent to sea in a half-built boat with a crew of nitwits: the communications officer can't relate; the sonar operator is an elderly woman; the youngest officer, Apple, is a 10-year-old genius. The hull of the hulk is a patchwork of high tech, rusty scraps and a plane fuselage. The
captain's chair is a living room recliner. Wires dangle; the engine room is circa DESTINATION: TOKYO. When he tells his communications officer to "rig for silent running," the man takes off his shoes and jogs in place. The initial conversations between Banner and First Officer Jan Michaels (Wendy
Schaal), past lovers, current enemies, are laced with glib, rapid-fire oral-sex innuendo.
Meanwhile, riding with Wedgewood in his limousine, Admiral Malice assures him he will sabotage "Substandard" as soon as he can establish the links which will remote-control it from the shore. This he does, putting the sub through wild maneuvers in an effort to sink the vessel and force the
Pentagon to hire Wedgewood to build them another. He sends the ship plunging into the abyss. When the boat survives, Wedgewood instead schemes to cause a Soviet nuclear satellite to plunge earthward into Soviet waters near the "Substandard." Its penetration into a sensitive area will trigger a
Admiral Malice's ploy almost works, and would almost be funny, but this satire on the near-ignition of WWIII and nuclear immolation will not be readily embraced by most viewers, and the wheezy yuks GOING UNDER does generate are half-baked. Besides, given the rapid makeover in world maps, deriving
comedy or drama from superpower conflict has become not only passe, but downright irrelevant. Many of the preceding gags, though inventive, are too long finding their target and, well, substandard. Moreover, history has left GOING UNDER astern; this cold-war anachronism was not stealthy enough for
release to theatres.