Review: We Joined the Navy

Directed by Wendy Toye and written by Howard Dimsdale, Lt Commander Robert Badger is an excellent naval officer with one major flaw: unwavering honesty, which sees him and his midshipmen end up in an altercation with a US admiral while out at sea. Starring: Kenneth More, Lloyd Nolan, Joan O’Brien, Derek Fowlds, Graham Crowden, Esma Cannon and John Le Mesurier.

When you’ve got Kenneth More taking the lead as a brash but charming Lt Commander, backed up by a bunch of under-experienced, over-confident young men, you know you’re in for a good time. We Joined the Navy is exactly what you’d expect, it’s silly, over the top and with a loud sense of humour that’s very much of its time. By now we’ve learnt that comes with the good and the bad, the bad being some unfortunate race-swapping and classic lechery. However, the good is a fun story of newly coined navy men being thrown into the deep end and causing as many hijinks as possible, whether they intend to or not. The characters are well written with big personalities, each with their own flaws to work on as the film progresses. The only major weakness is how it approaches its ending, suddenly throwing itself into something much more complicated and plot-driven that it just doesn’t have the foundation to pull off. It’s a shame to see it veer off course and leave things on a slightly dampened note.

While Kenneth More brings his usual charismatic presence, with a nice touch of blunt honesty, this is definitely an ensemble film. It’s absolutely packed with characters and even a feisty German Pinscher for good measure. The comedy comes in with plenty of absurdity but thankfully these performances keep things from turning into a calamity. They’re just ridiculous enough without going too far, keeping them relatable and charmingly hapless. Although it does still approach that line, so depending on your sense of humour, it may become a fraction too childish. It can also get stuck on a joke at times and drag it out longer than necessary.

For a film set primarily on a ship, it spends a delightful amount of time on land, giving its visual a satisfying variety. Especially its European scenes, which provide a great colour and a fish-out-of-water style atmosphere. It moves with a bouncy pacing, forever moving onto the next mishap. It can be a touch predictable but Wendy Toye’s direction nicely captures the story’s anything can happen tone. The sets and costuming are very well done, helped by some superb location choices. Its aesthetic is definitely responsible in no small part for why it never crosses that line into full blown ridiculous.

We Joined the Navy hits the nail on the head and gives you exactly what you’re expecting. That comes with its ups and downs, including a few poorly aged moments and final scenes that run away from the story. When you boil it down, it simply has flaws like any other 1960s comedy, but they’re not ones that stop you from enjoying the film. It can lean slightly too hard on its gags at times but when it’s boasting such a strong ensemble cast led by Kenneth More it all evens out. It may not quite be a quintessential 60s comedy but would be highly recommend for any fans of the Carry On franchise or Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10


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