Plot: Peter (Donald O’Connor) has been through a number of jobs, but he has always been a military man at heart. So when he is recalled to active duty, that comes as no real surprise, but as usual, things can never be that simple. As it turns out, Peter has been assigned to a new branch of the military and while it takes a bit to dawn on him, he soon realizes he is now in the Women’s Army Corps. A clerical error is to blame for his mixed up placement, but the base’s officers don’t want the mistake to be blamed on their efforts, so Peter is just put in with the female soldiers. Of course, his old friend Francis is also around and with a big war games competition between the men and women coming up, serves as Peter’s information source. Can Peter help his new sisters in arms win the competition or will his hapless efforts just hold them back?
Entertainment Value: This is the fifth volume in the Francis the Talking Mule series and while the basic joke has worn thin by this point, this installment still has a few laughs and a colorful cast to help out. The narrative is of course silly, but as always, nitpicking about story in a series about a talking mule is just as silly. The story sets up Peter in a new setting and allows for more mishaps and misunderstandings, so that is about all you can ask in this case. I do think a lot of jokes and scenarios are recycled from earlier movies and while this was true in previous installments, this movie leans on old jokes more than the others. Some are still humorous however and given the premise, some reuse of jokes is inevitable, since the concept is so simple and the series has focused on the same beats throughout. I did love the scenes where Chill Wills was both on screen as a character and playing the voice of Francis, as those were fresh and quite fun, so there is some new material in this one. In the end, I wouldn’t rank this as one of the better Francis movies, but also not one of the worst, putting it right in the middle as a passable, if forgettable comedic effort. If you’re a fan of the series or the interesting cast involved, it is worth a spin.
This was Donald O’Connor’s fifth run as the likable Peter, his next to last performance in this prolific series. By this point, he had the routine down pat and does little that we haven’t seen before, but that isn’t a knock. This kind of role is simple and O’Connor does more with it than most would, bringing a lot of energy and enthusiasm, even after several runs in the character. The script doesn’t do him a lot of favors either, as he has to reuse jokes and rely on broad slapstick, but again, O’Connor steps up and makes it work better than it should. A silly role like this might seem like an easy one, but O’Connor’s charm and humor makes it so much more than it is on the page. A colorful group of performers is also hand in supporting roles, with cult favorites Allison Hayes, Mara Corday, and Julie Adams on deck. I have to think the presence of these performers will lure in some viewers and their roles might be smaller ones, but all are fun to watch and bring positive elements to the movie. The cast also includes Mamie Van Doren, Zasu Pitts, and Chill Wills.
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