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Catch-22: The Funniest War Movie You've Never Seen
Can a war movie be funny?
"Catch-22" is the best war movie you've never heard of. Directed by Mike Nichols and released in 1970, it is based on the novel of the same name by Joseph Heller.
One Saturday night during my sophomore year of college, I had a few minutes to spare while waiting for my date to pick me up. She was running late and I was getting bored so I turned on the TV to distract myself. "Catch-22" just started on PBS of all channels.
"Catch-22"... I heard that before somewhere. I knew a "Catch-22" was something that contradicted itself. I also knew it was a novel. I was interested so I sat down and watched. Two hours later, I realized that I was stood up. That didn't matter, "Catch-22" was the funniest war movie I had ever seen.
Like the novel "Catch-22," the film takes place on an airbase in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II. The airmen fly bombing missions in B-25's. However, it doesn't focus on their missions. It's about the military bureaucracy that keeps the men from going home and the hilarious things they do in the meantime.
When most people think of a funny war movie, they probably think of another awesome movie: "Good Morning Vietnam" by Barry Levinson. How does "Catch-22" compare?
Why you'll love it
One of the things that surprised me the most was the all-star cast. This includes, among many others, Alan Arkin as the main character Captain Yossarian, Art Garfunkel, Buck Henry, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Charles Grodin and Orson Welles. That's a lot of talent.
Great actors, great director, great screenplay. So why haven't you heard of it? There are several reasons. In 1970 "MASH," directed by Robert Altman, was released and overshadowed it as the military comedy. While "MASH" takes place during the Korean War, "Catch-22" takes place during World War II.
It's likely that World War II is sacred on screen and audiences were not in the mood to take it lightly. Even today, World War II won't get much attention unless there's lots of blood and suffering.
While this is certainly understandable, an exception is highly recommended in this case. As soon as I saw "Catch-22," I had to get it. I couldn't find it back then (it was the 90's) so I got the novel.
Why won't Yossarian wear his uniform? Why doesn't General Dreedle care? Why does Orr keep crashing his plane into the sea? Why does Yossarian regret flying with him by the end of the movie? Why does his squadron bomb its own base? What does this have to do with the price of cotton? There's only one way to find out!
Below is a video that summarizes the meaning of Catch-22. Enjoy!