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‘Major Payne’ (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 24, 1995

"Major Payne," as played by a buff, bonkers Damon Wayans, is a Full Metal Joker. A killing machine so efficient he's run out of enemies, he is abruptly ousted from his beloved Marine Corps and must learn to adapt to civilian life. The hero's hilarious efforts to become an ROTC commander at a Virginia prep school are more than enough ammunition for this riotous military parody.

When Maj. Benson Payne arrives at Madison Academy, his mission is to transform the school's cadets -- the Mighty Ducks in fatigues -- into a crack kiddie unit. What Payne knows about children wouldn't fill a small-caliber shell casing. The same goes for what he knows about his love interest (Karyn Parsons), a genteel thoroughbred inexplicably attracted to Payne, gold front teeth, bad table manners and all.

Madison's lax principal gives Payne carte blanche in shaping up the small ROTC company: Otherwise, somebody might complain about his extreme tactics and the politically incorrect tirades he delivers with the speed of a spring-loaded howitzer.

The thing about Wayans -- and for that matter the rest of the Wayans troupers of "In Living Color" -- is that they are politically correct about poking fun. Here, that means nobody -- black, white, fat, deaf or little -- is safe from a nasty tongue-lashing from Maj. Payne, who is infected with oral flux -- what leathernecks call Halls of Montezuma's revenge.

In any case, Payne cannot stop himself from offering his young charges colorful words of encouragement that often pertain to a private's privates, his mother or the shaky status of his masculinity.

Wayans, who was among the movie's many writers, also provides the obligatory jokes regarding personal gaseous emissions. After sucking down two cans of apple juice and a cupcake laced with laxative, the major looses a toxic fume that causes one of his small charges to pass out cold. This movie, however, offers nothing quite so spectacular as the "Dumb and Dumber" diarrhea sequence. (Exsqueeze me, gentle readers, but such comparisons are increasingly pertinent.)

Director Nick "Dennis the Menace" Castle makes no effort to rein in Wayans, which is dandy as long as it's Wayans and the kids. But when it comes to romancing Parsons, Wayans's crude manner is as offensive as it is unbelievable. Castle, who might be running just to keep up with the energetic star, speeds through the drill at a pace that makes the Grenada Beach Party look like the Hundred Years War. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but who has time to notice? Wayans tears the roof off Madison Academy. All things considered, "Major Payne" promises to make Wayans a major player.

Major Payne is rated PG-13 for profanity and schoolyard violence.

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