It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
“Biloxi Blues” may indeed be based on memories from Neil Simon’s experiences in basic training during World War II, but it seems equally based on every movie ever made about basic training, and it suffers by comparison with most of them. The movie Mike Nichols has directed from the play is pale, shallow, unconvincing and predictable, and tells us less about the characters than we already know. It is also curiously depressing; it evokes nostalgia without creating it.
The film stars Matthew Broderick as Eugene, the autobiographical hero of Simon’s stage trilogy, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound.” Broderick does what he can with the material, but the action plods along from one inevitable conversation to another, and then there is a narration on the sound track, where Broderick says things like how he misses that time, and “I guess it was because I was young, and we were fighting a war that everybody felt good about. . . . “ If at the end of a movie you still have to provide the audience with such oft-told sentiments, you haven't merely failed, you haven't been paying attention.
Nichols has made one good movie since 1970: “Silkwood.” His other screen credits in the last 18 years are “The Day of the Dolphin,” “The Fortune” and “Heartburn.” Now comes “Biloxi Blues,” a film that seems not so much directed as conducted. Nichols is a man who has demonstrated a sharp and critical intelligence. What was there in this project to interest him, other than the opportunity to carry over to the screen his long stage association with Neil Simon? I'm serious.
What really interested him? I'm asking because nothing in this movie seems fresh, well-observed, deeply felt or even much thought about.