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Sgt. Bilko Reviews

This slick and rather nasty comedy follows the escapades of Master Sgt. Ernest Bilko (Steve Martin), a man for whom "be all you can be" is an invitation to take the Army for all it's got. The movie is inspired by the classic TV sitcom, in which Phil Silvers created the role of the wildly avaricious NCO. We miss Silvers' neurotic stylings, but there's no denying Martin is a funny guy; moreover, he finds a worthy foil in Phil Hartman as the tight-ass major who's going to derail Bilko's gravy train if it kills him. But under the yuks, the movie's mean-spirited. Like Ralph Kramden, the original Bilko was Everyman: He regularly tripped over his own cleverness, and in a pinch could be counted on to do the decent thing. Martin's Bilko is a career grifter who comes out on top every time. He's a Bilko for the nasty '90s, oily and smug. Look for Silvers' daughter Catherine -- you can tell her by the nose -- in the role of a military bean counter.