A hilarious mid-90s Damon Wayans film is finding life again on Netflix and not only is it finding life, but its popularity is also soaring as it sits at number two on the popular streamer.
Major Payne stars Damon Wayans as the title character, Benson Winifred Payne, a U.S. Marine Major who finds out that his time in the military has finally come to an end. After returning from a successful drug raid in South America, Major Payne fails to receive his promotion to lieutenant colonel, meaning instead he is given an honorable discharge. Payne attempts to adjust to his forced upon civilian life and in one of the film’s early fun scenes, Payne uses his idea of justice by repeatedly slapping a man during a training scenario. This assault lands Payne in jail.
Saving Payne is his former commander, who informs Payne that he has found him a job, allowing for Payne to reenter the military. While it’s not a job Payne finds worthwhile, it allows him to once again be a U.S. Marine, the only thing he knows and loves. Major Payne now finds himself at the Madison Preparatory School, where his new job is to train the young men in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Payne’s strict Marine ideals are in stark contrast to what the “green boys” are used to.
The cadet’s range in age and abilities, or lack thereof. They don’t much care for rules and have been able to remove each and every “teacher” that came before Damon Wayans’ Payne. But they never had an instructor like Major Payne and the tug-of-war begins. Throwing Major Payne for a loop is Emily Walburn (Karyn Parsons), a counselor at the Academy and one who has a strong relationship with Tiger, the six-year-old cadet under Payne’s “command.”
Emily immediately tries to get Payne to soften his stance when it comes to the boys, but Payne is slow on the uptake. His rigidness causes the boys to employ every trick they can think of to get Payne removed. Payne, though, has an answer for just about everything. The one thing he has trouble with is the feelings he begins to develop towards Emily.
There are absolutely no curveballs thrown in Major Payne. The story is familiar, and it doesn’t hide how things will end up for Major Payne, Emily, and the cadets of Madison Preparatory School. While the ending for this Damon Wayans movie is easy to see early on, the fun is getting there.
Damon Wayans’s comedic ability is on full display as he goes all in as Major Payne. Coming from the classic TV sketch series In Living Color, becoming the larger-than-life Payne was not a stretch for Wayans.
What makes Wayans performance truly tick are the young actors playing the cadets in question. Each cadet has their own issue they must work through, with the story more focusing on the oldest cadet in the bunch, Alex Stone (Steven Martini), who must deal with a drunk, ex-lieutenant colonel father (Michael Ironside) and gets unexpected help from Major Payne.
Major Payne is based loosely on the 1955 comedy The Private War of Major Benson, which starred screen legend Charlton Heston as Major Benson. Major Payne was directed by Nick Castle from a script that Damon Wayans had a hand in along with Dean Lorey and Gary Rosen. The actual script was written by William Roberts and Richard Alan Simmons. While not a critical hit, fans of Damon Wayans have found the movie to their pleasure.
Damon Wayans made his name on In Living Color. The popularity of that show allowed Wayans to crossover to features as he starred in The Last Boy Scout, Mo’ Money, Blankman, Celtic Pride, and Bulletproof.
With his feature films not making a huge dent at the box office, Wayans found himself heading back over to the small screen. He started with Damon, a TV series that lasted one season. He then moved on to the more popular and successful My Wife and Kids, which lasted five seasons.
After My Wife and Kids ended its run, Damon Wayans returned to sketch comedy with The Underground. Unfortunately, it never found an audience, lasting one season. Wayans did find further success with the TV series Lethal Weapon, based on the hit film franchise.
If you’re in the mood for some silly laughs, you can check out Damon Wayans’ fan-favorite Major Payne on Netflix.