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Film review: In the Army Now

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All movie comics do a military farce at some point in their career, so here comes "In the Army Now," a vehicle for erstwhile MTV host Pauly Shore, who scored some big-screen popularity as a supporting player in the mediocre "Encino Man" and then hit it big last year starring in the deplorable "Son-in-Law."

For the uninitiated, Shore's screen persona is somewhere between Jim Varney and Jim Carrey — if you drained them of all their energy and personality.

And "In the Army Now" steals liberally from service comedies of the past, most prominently "Stripes" and "Spies Like Us."

Shore is Bones Conway, a lazy wiseacre who spends more time playing video games than selling electronics at the store where he works with best buddy Jack Kaufman (Andy Dick, of "Reality Bites," who comes across as a younger and taller Martin Short).

When, as is inevitable, the boys are fired, Bones sees the Army reserves as a viable alternative. ("Be all that you can be — on the weekend," Bones says.)

So, they find themselves in basic training and then learn the ins and outs of water purification, along with a pair of fellow reservists, the macho Lori Petty ("A League of Their Own") and the wimpy David Alan Grier (TV's "In Living Color").

Bones and Jack reason that "water boys," as they call themselves, will be the last to be called up if there's a war. But when a conflict surfaces in Chad, they find that Army troops in the desert are in desperate need of "water boys."

The first half of the film chronicles the hassles of military training and the second half has our heroes lost in the desert, captured by Libyans and ultimately escaping to save the day.

This is all pretty silly and the material is far too familiar, with no fresh spin to make it more interesting. Worse, Shore's one-liners are not nearly as clever as he seems to think they are and he virtually sleep-walks through the picture. Meanwhile, the supporting characters (including Esai Morales as a special forces tough guy) are all idiotic stereotypes.

"In the Army Now" might have been more appealing with some energy or wit but the only performer who seems to be putting forth any effort is Lynn Whitfield (TV's "The Josephine Baker Story"), who brings some life to her role as a feisty drill sergeant.

But even she can't upstage the film's best performance — by a camel.

"In the Army Now" is rated PG for violence, sex, profanity and vulgarity.