Picks and Pans Review: Up the Academy

updated 07/14/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/14/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ron (Kaz) Leibman is the big star. He has the most lines. He plays the film's central character. Yet he has dissociated himself from it; his name never appears in the credits or promotion. That may be the smartest thing Leibman ever did; Mad magazine, director Robert Downey and Barbara Bach should have been so smart. The movie is basically Animal House Goes to Military School, but if Mad—dabbling in film for the first time—were parodying it, the title would read something like Down the Drain. Leibman, as a sadistic commanding officer, is solemnly intense; he seems to be in a melodrama. Downey, who directed the satirical hit Putney Swope, resorts to voice-over narration and a rock-filled sound track to cover huge gaps left in the action by screenwriters Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses. (In better days, they wrote many of the finest scripts for The Mary Tyler Moore Show.) Bach, a gorgeous woman and decent actress—she was both in The Spy Who Loved Me—-is barely seen. Worse, the teenage newcomers who play the students are consistently unappealing. The whole package is what Mad, in its old glory days, would have dismissed as a furshlugginer potrzebie. (R)

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