Biloxi Blues: Mike Nichols’ Version of Neil Simon’s Play, Starring Matthew Broderick

The comedy Biloxi Blues is on of Mike Nichols’ most commercial films, but also one of his weakest, artistically.

Prolific playwright Neil Simon adapted to the big screen his semi-autobiographical 1985 play, which is the second chapter in what he called the Eugene Trilogy, the first of which is Brighton Beach Memoirs and the third Broadway Bound.

Matthew Broderick plays Eugene Morris Jerome, a 20-year-old  naive Jewish kid from Brooklyn who is drafted into the army during the last year of World War II.

He is sent to Biloxi, Mississippi for basic training, where he encounters for the first time soldiers from all walks of life.  he also falls in love, and loses his virginity.  The longest sequence depicts his relationship with an eccentric drill instructor (played by the eccentric actor, Christopher Walken).

Nichols’s direction is functional and precise but ultimately uninspired.  He seems unable to rise above the theatrical origins of the material and its fatigued cliches about Jewish culture, military life, prostitute with a heart of gold, and so on.

The young Broderick brings a suitably fresh presence and immature voice to the role, making the overly familiar tale more endearing than it has the right to be.