Good news for fans of classic comedies where women kick ass, redefine their lives, and are constantly hilarious: “Private Benjamin,” the 1980 Goldie Hawn comedy classic, is being remade. Who's filling her combat boots in the title role? That would be Rebel Wilson, who actually showed us how ready she is for boot camp when she hosted the 2013 MTV Movie Awards and powered through an athletic opening sequence. I'm psyched for this!
Well, sort of psyched. “Private Benjamin” is one of the few comedies without a leading man to earn a Best Actress nomination for its leading lady. I'm protective over this gem. Here are five demands I have for its newest iteration.
1. Keep the scene where Judy's parents try to pick her up.
To me, the defining scene of “Private Benjamin” is when Judy — who is not doing so well as a recruit — realizes her parents' values are actually shallow and worthless. It's kind of a profound little moment. You assume your life is meaningful until you do something completely different and realize it could be more fulfilling. Try not to cheer for Goldie as her insufferable, yet believable parents condescendingly try to woo her back to white-collar confines. And good lord: The way Eileen Brennan deadpans, “We are sad to see her go” is straight-up hilarious.
2. Rewrite and improve the entire second half.
Here's a fun fact about “Private Benjamin”: Everything you love about it happens in the first half. That's when Goldie is sobbing her way through ropes courses, lamenting her husband's death, and wondering if she signed up “the wrong army.” Because then the movie turns into this other thing where Goldie leaves boot camp and dates Armand Assante in Europe, hoping again for an awesome marriage, and the comedy of the movie utterly disintegrates. Surely the Rebel Wilson version of this story deserves a better ending than this truncated version of “Sex and the City”'s sixth season. I'd prefer if Wilson ended up graduating to the role of drill sergeant, at least.
3. Eileen Brennan's role as Col. Lewis must be filled by Jane Lynch.
Jane Lynch once claimed she studied Brennan's work in “Private Benjamin,” watching the movie again and again and becoming obsessed with it. That's no surprise: Brennan's rancor seems like the ancestral grandmother to Sue Sylvester, whose unamused whistle-blowing on “Glee” makes for the show's funniest moments.
4. Let's get to know the other female recruits better.
We don't really learn much about Goldie's bunkmates in “Private Benjamin,” even though one of them is the legendary P.J. Soles in a pretty juicy role. I'd rather see more of a ladies-in-fatigues social dynamic explored than a tacked-on love interest. Show me some competitiveness and camaraderie.
5. Let Goldie play her disapproving mother.
It is blue-rare that we see Goldie Hawn play a slightly unlikable role. I'd love to see her play a true JAP empress and scold Rebel Wilson for her unorthodox life choices. I'd love a whole wave of snide Goldie characters. Let the revolution begin here.