Even though Baby Blue Marine tries to accomplish too much, resulting in narrative muddiness, every quality to which the movie aspires is commendable. Set during World War II, the picture follows the exploits of Marion (Jan-Michael Vincent), a gung-ho youth who gets kicked out of the Marines during basic training for failing to meet basic proficiency requirements. (Never mind that Vincent is in extraordinary shape, or that his character is shown to possess bravery, intelligence, and leadership—not exactly the traits of a likely washout.) Making his way home from boot camp to St. Louis, while wearing the demeaning “baby blue” uniform of a reject, Marion gets assaulted by a combat veteran (Richard Gere) who steals Marion’s clothing as a ruse for escaping the military. (Again, never mind that Gere’s character could simply have bought street clothes.) Now dressed as a decorated soldier, Marion hitchhikes toward a small town in the Northwest, where he’s taken in by sweet-natured teen waitress Rose (Glynnis O’Connor) and her family. Eventually, Marion gets called into action when three young Japanese-Americans escape from an internment camp, so Marion—oh, the irony!—becomes the voice of pacifism when hotheads seek to hunt down the escapees.
TV-trained writer Stanford Whitmore’s script is contrived but offbeat, while director John Hancock’s storytelling is blunt and mechanical, but Baby Blue Marine means well. Themes of courage, decency, and humanism are always welcome, and everyone learns a tidy little lesson at the end of the picture, Afterschool Special-style. Plus, the movie looks much better than it should, because the great cinematographer László Kovács fills Hancock’s bland frames with nuanced lighting. The acting is generally underwhelming, with Vincent going for a babe-in-the-woods dreaminess that makes him seem detached during many scenes; meanwhile, supporting players including Dana Elcar, Katherine Helmond, and Burt Remsen are hamstrung by trite dialogue. (O’Connor comes across as sweet and warm, but her work is not especially memorable.) However, Bruno Kirby makes a strong impression in the opening scenes as one of Marion’s fellow ne’er-do-well recruits, and Art Lund provides gravitas as a small-town dad mourning the battlefield death of his son.
Baby Blue Marine: FUNKY