This just in: the U.S. military may harbor non-progressive views about homosexuality.
This shocking concept appears to be the central tenet of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” a self-described “refried flick.” “Refried” in this case means taking an otherwise forgettable public domain sci-fi film (1954’s Peter Graves vehicle “Killers from Space”) and dubbing new ADR and dialogue over the scenes in order to give the movie an entirely new theme. In this case, the plot has changed from one of aliens trying to steal Earth’s nuclear secrets to aliens trying to prevent a sinister military plot to wipe out queers. Aliens abduct “Dr. Doug Fartin” (Peter Graves from the original film) and convert him from butch Army scientist into swishy operative in order to further their cause. Meanwhile, the rest of the military installation bumbles along trying to discover what’s happened to the good doctor, and at the same time attempting to take care of those pesky homosexuals once and for all.
If this device sounds familiar, it’s because Woody Allen did it thirty-six years ago in “What’s Up Tiger Lily” (hell, the Firesign Theater did it with old Republic serials in 1983). The difference? Allen’s film was actually funny. But then, lots of things in this movie were a lot funnier the first time around. For instance, the _expression “Gulf War distraction” was considerably more amusing when Bill Hicks used it in 1992. Just as having everyone mispronounce Dr. Fartín’s name (“fartin’” vs. “far-tEEn”) was funnier when it was Hedley vs. Hedy Lamarr in “Blazing Saddles” or John Bigbooté in “Buckaroo Banzai.” The only new twist in “Don’t Ask”‘s case is that it takes this already stale mispronunciation joke and drives it into the ground. Repeatedly.
“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” spends a great deal of time patting itself on the back. From the ticklish character names – Nurse Bendover, Major Problemo, Colonel Butts…you get the idea – to the way in which it invokes all the bogeys of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, jibes at Bob Jones University are already stale, in much the same way that having the aliens come from…wait for it…Uranus is; or including a joke about how the aliens “dance pretty good for white guys;” or painting all people from Texas (specifically “Inbred, Texas” – where most of the action takes place) as book-burning Cro-Mags who drool at the thought of “frying a few retards.” Wow. “Inbred, Texas.” I guess the sequel will take place in “Incest, Alabama” or “Drunken Senator, Massachusetts.”
Is the military conspiring to eliminate homosexuals in America? Probably not, but rather than present any sort of biting satire or incisive commentary on this issue of intolerance, the creative forces behind “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” have chosen to utilize potty humor and puns that would seem right at home in an issue of Maxim. A few new scenes have been inserted to help move the action along – comedian Lloyd Floyd plays the new characters and does a fine job, but it’s not enough, especially considering the number of times the creators decided to repeat certain scenes just so they could insert more tired gags. One gets the impression the creators of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” laughed a hell of a lot at their own jokes. Too bad none of it is funny.