Lt. Cmdr. Tom Dodge is assigned as Captain to the USS Stingray, an old diesel driven submarine that has seen better days. With a crew that consists only of weird guys (and a gal), he's headed against the atomic powered USS Orlando, with the mission to destroy a dummy battleship.
Kelsey Grammars rise in comic stature as neurotic shrink Frasier Crane star of Cheers and its eponymous spin-off has led him, predictably, to the door marked Big Screen Debut. However, while his Frasier TV show is inspired, hilarious stuff, its leading mans maiden bid for cinema stardom comes slightly unstuck. Down Periscope is a curiously sterile effort which, although by no means unwatchable, still manages to reinvent good old-fashioned bland.
The films saving grace is Grammar as Tom Dodge, a sharp submarine commander-in-waiting with as far as the Navy is concerned the wrong attitude. Despite protestations from arch enemy Admiral Graham (Bruce Dern), Dodge is given command of a rustbucket sub, and has to not only plug the leaks in his vessel but those in his crews ability. Grammar translates easily to the screen, while his supporting cast (Dern, Rip Torn, Harry Dean Stanton) perform ably given that they should really be better served.
This is amiable enough and perhaps one shouldnt expect anything more from the team that brought you Police Academy (writer Hugh Wilson) and Major League (director Ward). What really lets this down, though, is the uninspired plot and one-dimensional characters. While its true that this was never going to be a high-brow evening at the pictures, the air of familiarity it leaves behind proves to be a major disappointment.
Kelsey Grammar's transition to the big screen is far from seamless.