I wonder what At War with the Army would be like if it were funny. I also wonder what it would be like if director Walker could figure out how to open up a scene. Sure, the whole thing is shot on limited exteriors and then the same interiors–it takes place on an army base–but Walker just goes through the same shots over and over again. Worse, there are musical numbers and Walker is even more inept at their staging. The first one, in the mess hall, is a no brainer but Walker flops with it.
Paul Weatherwax's editing is solid and it hints at how the scene could have been a whole lot better.
The script is the next problem. Even though the script is from the film's producer, Fred F. Finklehoffe, it plays like he doesn't understand the difference between a movie and a stage play. The long scenes, full of repeated character gags and annoying contrivances, drag. It's curious to see fast-talking Mike Kellin and Jerry Lewis plow through their lengthy dialogue deliveries to fill time.
The script sets up Lewis, Dean Martin and Tommy Farrell as the most likable characters in the film, but mostly because no one else is at all endearing. With Lewis, there's the oddity of him being sympathetic because lead Martin is gently nasty to him. But it's not enough to make Army worthwhile.
As for Martin, he delivers the lousy dialogue really well. Again, not enough to make the movie worthwhile.
Directed by Hal Walker; screenplay by Fred F. Finklehoffe, based on the play by James B. Allardice; director of photography, Stuart Thompson; edited by Paul Weatherwax; produced by Finklehoffe; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring Dean Martin (1st Sgt. Vic Puccinelli), Jerry Lewis (Pfc. Alvin Korwin), Mike Kellin (Sgt. McVey), Jimmie Dundee (Eddie), Dick Stabile (Pvt. Pokey), Tommy Farrell (Cpl. Clark), Frank Hyers (Cpl. Shaughnessy), Danny Dayton (Supply Sgt. Miller), William Mendrek (Capt. Ernest Caldwell), Kenneth Forbes (Lt. Davenport), Paul Livermore (Pvt. Jack Edwards), Ty Perry (Lt. Terray) and Polly Bergen (Helen Palmer).