Friday, January 23, 2009

Private Simpson?

Fluffy fun, and it’s no documentary
By Chuck Vinch - Staff writer Army Times

Apparently, there is a huge swath of America that has been scratching its collective head over why someone hasn’t done a remake of “Private Benjamin.”
That is the only potential explanation for the straight-to-DVD special “Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous,” coming Feb. 3 to a store near you.
The basic premise of the story is lifted intact from Goldie Hawn’s 1980 opus and mixed with lower production values and a less talented cast headlined by none other than Jessica Simpson — “America’s Sweetheart,” as she’s billed in the press notes.
Yet for all that, “Private Valentine” isn’t the neutron bomb that might be expected. Fluffy and silly, sure, but there are decent laughs, too — most, believe it or not, courtesy of Simpson.
Yes, her singing career is kaput. And yes, her acting career is what it is, mired in straight-to-DVD purgatory. But she has a sweetly ingratiating style, shows a deft sense of comic timing and does a not-too-shabby Joe Pesci impression. (Plus, there is simply no denying that she flat-out rocks a tight Army Class B uniform.)
Simpson plays a spoiled, pampered Hollywood princess whose life is tightly controlled by her handlers and whose career consists mainly of “talking dog” films that have made her rich but left her unfulfilled. (A clip from her latest, co-starring a gabby Saint Bernard, is a hoot.)
“Where’s my ‘Color Purple’? Where’s my ‘Sling Blade’?” she laments — and just for a second, you wonder if that’s her character or the real Jessica talking.
Then in rapid succession, her accountant absconds with her entire fortune, she discovers her boyfriend is gay and sleeping with her manager, and she gets a little tipsy and crashes her car.
Waking up in front of an Army recruiting station, she decides to turn her life around by enlisting.
“Are you ready to embrace the core values that the Army holds dear — loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity and courage?” the smoothie recruiter asks.
“It’s like you’re totally reading my mind!” Simpson bubbles.
And so off she goes to boot camp at Fort Jackson, S.C., under a hard-boiled drill sergeant (Vivica A. Fox), where she and a standard assortment of misfits (including former SNL performer Cheri Oteri) must band together, reach deep down and become …
Army Strong!
All this and a bulldog named Figmo, too. (Don’t know “figmo”? Check your acronym dictionary.)
Military accuracy is not on the agenda here; the film is off the rails in too many ways to count as far as that goes. For example, throughout boot camp, Simpson keeps intact her long tresses, as well as her eyeliner and lip gloss.
She may pine for serious roles, but she’s willing to go only so far with that Method acting thingie.
But if you’re willing to take it for what it is, “Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous” actually proves moderately amusing.
How much you’re willing to pay for that level of amusement is another issue. The film might be worth grins and giggles as a fly-by-night offering on pay cable, or even as an inexpensive rental. But you’ve reeeeeally got to love you some Jessica to fork out the $24.96 list price for this baby.
Bonus DVD features: Two words: not much. There’s a 15-minute “making of” featurette, mainly cast members talking about the ickiness of dealing with the nasty, buggy outdoors during production (filming took place mainly in Louisiana, not South Carolina), and two deleted scenes that were deleted for a reason.

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