Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
War Comedy Is Too Silly, but Has Some Laughs
Cleveland Press July 13, 1966
There is more promise than fulfillment in the new motion picture entitled "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?"
It is 1943 and a company of American soldiers led by an inexperienced by- the - book Captain (Dick Shawn) is ordered to take a heavily fortified Sicilian town.
They enter the town and find not a fight but a welcome. There is only one condition to the surrender explains the Italian officer (Sergio Fantoni). The surrender comes tomorrow. Tonight is the fiesta.
THAT'S NOT in the book, according to Shawn and the war almost breaks out again. A battle-wise lieutenant (James Coburn) smoothes matters over and the fiesta begins along with a long series of complications.
By morning everyone is stoned, a group of poker playing soldiers have ended up wearing each others uniforms so that you cannot tell friend from foe and the Italian officer calls off the surrender when he finds his girl (Giovanna Ralli) with the American captain.
Under Coburn's direction the combined armies stage mock battles to fool recon planes. Meanwhile, the German division moves in and captures everyone.
Producer - director Blake Edwards gets his best laughs from individual gags, not the overall situation. And even the gags get wearisome as each one is dragged out past its peak.
HE PILES ON twists and turns of plot, each thinner than the last situation, in an attempt to provide a bigger framework for the generally good slapstick. And when all else fails he tosses in some sex.
Best bits -- the phony battle with the townspeople going about their business, an intelligence officer (Harry Morgan) wandering in unexpectedly and trying to deal with a group of Italian soldiers in American uniforms.
Most tiresome gag -- Shawn dressed as a woman as he tries to elude the Germans.
THE ENTIRE MOVIE would have benefited from trimming a half hour from it.
Coburn, Shawn and Fantoni give solid comic performances. Aldo Ray is a tough sergeant -- has he ever been anything else? Miss Ralli is gorgeous.
There are enough lapses in taste to rule this out as family entertainment.