Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Movie Theater: Down Periscope (1996)

From one sea adventure movie to another

After reviving the review series last month with "Cutthroat Island" (1995), Sunday Movie Theather returns with another sea adventure movie. ^^

Movie poster is from Movie Poster DB.

Released just a year after "Cutthroat Island" (1995), there's no more pirate in this movie, and it's set in modern era. Then again, looking at the characters and their behavior as depicted in the story, they can make for a bunch of incompetent pirates anyway. XD

Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

"Down Periscope", a 1996 movie directed by David S. Ward. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB, while the entire story is up on the movie's Wikipedia page.

A lighthearted comedy through-and-through, "Down Periscope" (1996) is a movie that I watched and enjoyed since I was very little. ^^ There many funny points that work tremendously well in this movie, mainly due to its likeable cast. As a character-driven comedy, it's a no-brainer that the portrayal of the characters is most important to make the film a success. "Down Periscope" certainly did well in this aspect. The characters are genuinely funny, as with the interaction between them in their misadventures. ^^ Despite having many characters, the characteristics of Lieutenant Commander Dodge (played by Kelsey Grammer), his crew members, allies and adversaries in the Navy are pretty straightforward, almost unrealistically and too simplistically so in my opinion. ^^ However, that's a good design of the movie I think, as it allows the audience members to get into the story quickly, understand it easily, and focus on enjoying the humor more. ^^

Besides humor, there are various positive messages to be seen in the movie. Being misfits working hard together to beat the system, Dodge and his crew members demonstrated the importance of determination and cooperation. The submarine itself, the USS Stingray, and her whole crew were selected by Admiral Graham (played by Bruce Dern) to not only frustrate Dodge, but to confine him to defeat even before the start of the war game, or at least that was what the good admiral had in mind. It is therefore very interesting to see how Dodge and his crew members band together through early stages of mistrust to eventually beat Admiral Graham in his own rigged game.

Recognizing that others have their own strengths and talents which may be useful in unorthodox ways is another important message in the movie as well. Besides Dodge and his constant think-outside-the-box methods while performing his navy duties, which incurred the wrath of folks like Admiral Graham, the entire crew of the USS Stingray is the embodiment of said message I think. Engineman Brad (played by Bradford Tatum) is rebellious, but is also physically tough; Sonar Technician "Sonar" (played by Harland Williams) is very weird, but his sharp hearing allows him to report more than just sonar readings, not to mention he speaks whale language too. XD Even electrician Nitro (played by Toby Huss) demonstrated his usefulness in facilitating communication with his unique resistance to electricity. ^^ By (regular) Navy standards, all of them wouldn't even be allowed to be enlisted I suppose, but they proved their worth in carrying out the mission, in the context of the story that is. ^^ Characters like Admiral Graham and Ex O Pascal (played by Rob Schneider) represented discipline and order, which didn't take into consideration creativity and individual talents, however weird they may be, and the movie humorously showed that their ways are not always right.

Interestingly, of all the characters, Brad and Lieutenant Emily Lake (played by Lauren Holly) are the only one to be shown with clear character development I think. Depicted in the beginning as a rebel who disobeyed Dodge and caused trouble to the other crew members, Brad eventually fits in with the team, and contributes his strength in the final push to the completion of the mission. Distrustful of Dodge at first, Emily almost caused the Stingray to lose in the beginning stage of the war game due to her lack of experience and confidence, but thanks to Dodge's unorthodox motivation method, she regains her confidence and helps to steer the submarine the hardest final stage of the war game while avoiding detection from "enemy" vessels.

Besides Brad and Emily, the other characters seem to be pretty static in their designs throughout the movie. That's even true for Dodge, the protagonist of the movie, which may sound like a surprise. Confident and does not play by the book, Dodge's characteristics are exactly the same from the beginning till the end of the movie. As a result of that, we only get to see how Dodge applies his confidence and creativity in managing his crew members to accomplish the missions given to him, but he himself doesn't seem to change with them. While it's true that it's important for the main character to shown some kind of development throughout the movie so that the audience members can relate to that character and his or her story, the humor in the movie, most which can be attributed directly to Dodge, are enjoyable enough for me to discard that deviation in movie characterization.

In a way, not following the typical design of the main character for the movie is consistent with the depiction of Dogde and his crew members in the story as well. ^^

As mentioned above, the movie works well because of its genuine humor for the most parts. The two creative yet ridiculous ways Dodge deploys to get away from an "enemy" submarine were very funny, and the pirate-style execution Dodge arranged for Pascal for trying to take over the USS Stingray was a lot of fun to watch as well. ^^ There are various other slapstick moments as well, with some that work better than the others. ^^

Much like "Cutthroat Island" (1995), "Down Periscope" has a pretty straightforward story that is a lot of fun. For its humor, positive messages, and feel-good moments, it is certainly a very enjoyable movie to watch and rewatch. ^^

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