IHAO on ... Major Payne

Damon Wayans is a funny dude.  In Living Color, he is hilarious.  And in this movie he is funny.  And ... ok, so I haven't seen a lot of Damon Wayans.  I'll fix it, because I do genuinely enjoy watching him perform and become his characters.  He reminds me of his In Living Color sketch-mate, Jim Carrey.  He creates a character, and inhabits that character.  And this movie would not have worked at all if Wayans wasn't so good at doing that.

Major Payne tells the story of a balls-to-the-wall killer Marine who unfortunately is not stable enough to become a higher ranking officer, and the way wars are waged are caging around him, becoming diplomatic, and leaving a man who finds combat his life awash without a place to be.  So he is forced into retirement, where his commanding officer finds him a new job: running the JROTC of a boarding school.  From there, we see Payne, in his unique way, help these kids.

This isn't Dead Poet's Society.  This isn't a standard feel good film.

This telling of the Little Engine That Could quickly becomes a shared PTSD experience.

This movie makes straight Apocalypse Now references and the character of Payne is unrelenting.  And while he hasn't dealt with children, we learn he has dealt with cadets, and knows what he is doing.  And he is right, and although his harsh hand gets softened a little over the course of the film, he never stops being Payne, merely goes through some character growth as a new phase of his life begins.

This movie is very good.  As far as children's films are concerned, it is actually probably a little too harsh for some parents to let their kids view, and that's kind of the point.  This film is not an easy one, just like Payne is not an easy man, but it does have a heart and it does teach the right messages.  Beyond that, it is very funny, with a lot of pathos, and is shot very well.  It culminates in a standard family film kind of way, which could be detrimental for some viewers, but if you buy into the genre itself, I think you'll find it fine.

The movie does everything it sets out to do, and I feel it exceeds its goals.  Though when it came out, and even now, it is received mostly negatively, which is shocking to this critic.  I definitely would urge any of you with a chance to check it out again.

Grade: A

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