A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Major Payne likes to think of himself as a killing machine. That's why he's devastated to be passed over for promotion and mustered out of the service. Surely, he begs his commanding officer, there must be another war to fight? Somebody else to kill? "Sorry, Payne," he's told. "There's nobody else to kill. You've killed them all." Back in civilian life and unemployed, he tries out for the police force, but gets carried away during a "real life simulation" and hammers an actor who is portraying a perpetrator. Then an old friend finds him a job, as the officer in charge of the junior ROTC cadet training corps at a private school in Virginia. This is not the job he was born to fill.
Payne is played in the movie by Damon Wayans, in the best work he's done since the inspired "In Living Color" TV series.
Although the plot of the movie is a familiar formula, the dialogue and performance are not; it's a smart, funny job of poking fun at all those movies where sadistic drill instructors terrorized their green recruits.
In this case, according to the school's doddering headmaster (a bug collector played by William Hickey), the recruits are literally green: They wear green uniforms, he knows, but he's not sure exactly why. The only person on the school faculty with a clue about real life is a cute teacher named Dr. Emily Walburn (Karyn Parsons), who makes Payne get all mushy-mouthed when she sweet-talks him.