'G.I.Jane' is an after-school special on the big screen

by Joe Peters | 8/14/97 5:00am

Halfway through the movie "G.I. Jane," two trainee Navy SEALs are going through their first battle simulation in approaching a concealed enemy outpost which may or may not be occupied.

When one remarks that there seems to be no one around, the other replies, "Well, I had a broken watch once, and it was right twice a day." If this strikes you as trite and unoriginal, brace yourself because it's about as original as this movie gets.

"G.I. Jane," written by David Twohy of "Waterworld" infamy, opens with Senate Majority Leader Lillian DeHaven (Anne Bancroft) grilling the Defense Secretary nominee over the condition of women in the armed forces.

To secure her support of his nomination, the higher-ups at the Pentagon agree to place a female officer of DeHaven's choosing into the training program for the elite Navy SEALs as a secret test case. DeHaven selects Lt. Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) and has her flown to Washington so she can meet her in person. The resulting conversation produces some of the more memorably bad dialogue and gives a hint of things to come:

O'Neil (referring to past discrimination): They told me there were no bathroom facilities for women.

DeHaven: Did that piss you off?

O'Neil: Yes.

DeHaven: Good. I like pissed off.

O'Neil is then whisked off to the SEAL camp where she experiences hostility and/or condescending behavior when not enduring catcalls. The only remotely interesting character on the base is the Command Master Chief, played by Viggo Mortensen, who quotes D.H Lawrence and listens to opera music when he is not devising challenges for his recruits.

After surmounting numerous obstacles, including media exposure, a double crossing and her own occasional self doubt, O'Neil manages to prove her worth and leadership skills in battle alongside her fellow trainees.

For Ridley Scott, the director of "G.I. Jane," subtlety is not an option. This is a movie with an important message, but unfortunately Scott does not trust the viewer's intelligence enough to let them discover it on their own.

Instead, he hits them with a series of emotionally charged scenes, hoping they will get so caught up in O'Neil's pain that they forget to examine the movie on its own merits.

As a result, the characters are flat and predictable, and a movie that sets out to debunk stereotypes ends up employing a good deal of them. If you've ever wanted to see what an after-school special would look like on the big screen, "G.I. Jane" fits the bill.