(director/writer: Avi Nesher; screenwriter: Sharon Harel; cinematographer: Ya’ackov Kallach; editor: Yitzhak Sehayek; music: Yair Rosenblum; cast: Gidi Gov (Giora Datner), Liron Nirgad (Micki), Sassi Keshet (Dani), Doval’e Glickman (Moti), Meir Suissa (Bazooka), Smadar Brenner (Yaffa ‘Yafchu’), Dafna Armoni (Noa), Gali Atari (Mali), Tuvia Tzafir (Aviv), Heli Goldenberg (Orli); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Itzik Kol; Eastways Productions; 1978-Israel-in Hebrew with English subtitles)

“A thoroughly enjoyable Israeli movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Avi Nesher’s musical comedy is set in 1967 following the Six-Day War in Israel. It follows twelve young men and women, all members of an Israeli Army entertainment troupe, perform comedy and singing acts. It features two male newcomers, the forward Datner and the goofy Jerry Lewis-like Bazooka, who are considered nerds, and the beautiful and very talented female singer Noa. The film opens at the audition conducted by the civilian middle-aged director Aviv.

The veteran troupe decides to give the new recruits the silent treatment and play practical jokes on them, which is their traditional way to initiate newcomers. This leads to a number of juvenile gags, showing these are really kids. When Noa takes away a much sought after solo number from Yaffa, this brings out in the open the jealousy rife among the group.

The troupe bravely perform in combat zones and ride in their old bus to various sites to boost morale. During their bus rides they stop horsing around long enough to listen to the news, which tells of Israeli casualties in battle and brings home the seriousness facing the country.

The show’s star, with the most solos, is the vain ladies man Dani, who hits it off with the ambitious Noa. The musical director Moti becomes jealous of Dani, since he also has a crush on Noa. Meanwhile the timid bespectacled Bazooka is given a lesson on how to meet women by Datner. Bazooka has a crush on the promiscuous Orli, while Datner and Micki begin a romance.

The troupe gets an appearance on national television, which they were all hoping for. But they get contentious during a rehearsal and Micki gets court-martialed for dumping yogurt over Aviv. The troupe stick together when Micki gets transferred, and go on strike unless she’s back with the troupe. Aviv relents, and the troupe sings a rousing song of peace to end the film on.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable Israeli movie that had a lot of bounce, even though the characters were clich├ęs and a few slapstick and a few serious scenes failed. What came through was the humanity of the soldier entertainers, the real personal and worldly tensions they face daily, and how they might get under each other’s skin but when the chips are down they will rally to stick together.

Ha-Lahaka (1978)