"Most of what follows is true," we're told at the beginning of Two Men Went to War, John Henderson's blithe-spirited comedy about a pair of British soldiers who took it upon themselves to invade occupied France. Sgt. Peter King (Kenneth Cranham) and Pvt. Leslie Cuthbertson (Leo Bill) served in the Royal Army Dental Corps, but they dreamed of something more -- a role in "England's finest hour" that didn't involve dentures. King was, according to the movie, a first-class soldier and barking mad. Cuthbertson was an impressionable youth, ready to follow whoever was ready to lead. King led, Cuthbertson followed, and together they crossed the English Channel armed with a pair of revolvers and a couple of dozen hand grenades.
In the movie, mild wackiness ensues, for this isn't "Hogan's Heroes." It's closer in spirit to Private Benjamin, with a slight touch of Hope and Glory, John Boorman's nostalgic look at what it was like to be a boy during the Blitz. And Henderson does such a great job of maintaining that tone -- amusing, yet wistful -- that Two Men Went to War starts to seem like a minor classic. Cranham is superb at playing a strictly-by-the-book soldier who last cracked a smile at the outbreak of World War I. And Bill is equally superb as a soldier who, like Gomer Pyle, floats through the world on a cloud of blissful ignorance. There's a Laurel-and-Hardy feeling to the interplay between these two jokers, although the laughs are never as big and loud. Then again, let's hear it for small, soft laughs, one after another.