On this day in comedy on March 24, 1995, Major Payne was released by Universal Pictures
Written by and starring Damon Wayans, this satire of military films is a hilarious remake of an old 1955 Charlton Heston film, The Private War of Major Benson. Didn’t try to hide that fact either. Wayans’ character name is Major Benson Winifred Payne. Directed by Nick Castle, Major Payne co-stars Karyn Parson, Orlando Brown, Albert Hall, William Hickey, Michael Ironside and Steven Martini
In the film Wayans plays a veteran of the Marines who’s hit the glass ceiling. After a big deal drug mission, he is still passed up for Lt. Colonel, so he gets an honorable discharge and retires mentally from fighting anymore battles for the Corps. Once out he joins the cops. That lasts as long as it takes him to knock out a domestic violence suspect on his first call. Payne is put in jail. Fortunately, a friend bails him out and arranges for him to instruct youngsters at a military school; youngsters with disabilities, like deafness and heart conditions.
Payne’s new job is to train the cadets. He overzealously treats them like hardened grown men and soon gets the wrath of the cute lady school counselor. Payne doesn’t care – he wants his new recruits to win the Military Games that hasn’t been won by the school ever. They are always last. Well not again if Payne can help it. He tells his troops that he wants that trophy. So, they sneak over to the school that has it and tries to steal it, but Payne drops a dime on them and the cadets from the rival academy ambush his boys.
After their defeat Payne makes a deal. If his guys can win the trophy legit he will leave. They go all out in their training to accomplish that goal. It looks like they’re ready, but Payne gets called back into the service to go to Bosnia. Morale is down, but the boys compete anyway. Even though he’s gone anyway, they’re fired up to win just to win. However, Payne feels he let them down and returns just in time to route his squad on to victory and they . . . win. Throughout the experience Payne himself has gotten more sympathetic, but not totally. In the final scene when a new blind recruit mouths off Payne shaves him and his seeing-eye dog bald.
Major Payne got mixed reviews but was an audience pleaser coming in at #2 on its opening weekend and taking in a worldwide gross of $30.1 million.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Check out this clip: