An opportunity for an unusual film about teen-agers was thrown away, in "Taps," in favor of what its own screenplay characterizes as a cinematic stereotype.

Set at a military academy, the movie includes, in its opening scene, two brief confrontations between the disciplined, uniformed cadets and taunting, slovenly townies of the same age.

Juxtaposing the unfashionably rigorous life with the free-form modern one might have said something, one way or the other, about education. But it is never allowed to develop.

Instead, the cadets, led by Timothy Hutton, come to attack civilian society, barricading themselves in their academy for armed warfare with parents, police and National Guardsmen, to try to prevent, at the cost of their own lives, the perfectly legal, if disheartening, disbanding of the school.

One is supposed to believe that too much shoe polish and talk about honor has made them crazy.

And this is after the general in charge of the academy, played by George C. Scott (whose previous military experience includes being Dr. Strangelove and George Patton), has explained to his best pupil that in the movies, "Military leaders are always portrayed as slightly insane. More than slightly. It is insane to cling to honor in a world where honor is held in contempt."

Scott, to do him credit, makes an acceptable human being out of the old general, conveying the idea that good posture and humanitarianism are not mutually exclusive. But his character is removed from the film early -- even the classically insane general couldn't plausibly run that far amok.

TAPS -- At the Jenifer Cinema, Loehmann's Plaza, NTI New Carrollton, NTI Tysons Center, Old Town, Roth's Seven Locks, Springfield Mall, Wheaton Plaza.