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Weekend Warriors (1986)

The Cold War turned dangerously hot during the early ’60s, threatening to escalate into all-out war during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay Of Pigs. That era is addressed in the conventional recent drama Thirteen Days, as well as the more incendiary 1986 comedy Weekend Warriors, which explosively suggests that Chris Lemmon-orchestrated tomfoolery nearly compromised international perceptions of America's battle-readiness during a crucial period in history. Set in 1961, Weekend Warriors casts Lemmon as the leader of a raggedy National Guard division populated by such colorful characters as a singer with a speech impediment, a flamboyant gossip columnist, and a hustler who infuriates sergeant Vic Tayback by asserting that the division’s mission consists of “booze, broads, and bullshit.” The trouble begins for the lovable misfits when a horrified senator (Graham Jarvis) stumbles upon a large-scale, division-wide experiment testing the flammability of flatulence. Less than amused by the soldiers’ scientific inquiry, Jarvis arranges to ship the division off to Germany. But his nefarious plan ultimately falls victim to Lemmon’s cunning. First, Lemmon removes his immediate superiors through a series of prankish tactics, luring Tayback into a compromising position with a showgirl, impersonating President Kennedy, and convincing a tightly wound officer that he suffers from an African shrinking disease. Having cleared the field, Lemmon schemes to have Jarvis and a Romanian ambassador visit the base before the division can be shipped overseas. Once the visitors arrive, officer Lloyd Bridges takes them on a tour of the base, only to discover that it features not only the standard barracks and mess halls, but also novel conveniences like a Hawaiian-themed nightclub headlined by a bawdy, middle-aged songstress. The troops’ madcap antics make Jarvis understandably angry, a condition that intensifies after Bridges tricks him into reading a speech concerning the double-entendre-filled life of a certain “Colonel Lingus.” Finally, Lemmon recruits a team of actors and ROTC members to impersonate his division, wowing Jarvis, scaring off the Commies, and helping ensure that the crippling fears of the Cold War era would linger for decades to come.