What do these movies have in common? Top Gun. Black Hawk Down. Armageddon. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case Of The U.S. Navy Adventure.
You’re right! They all feature a sailor pup named Clue! And they’re also the same genre– Action/Mystery/Military Recruitment Tool. Most people know about this military-entertainment complex. It’s pretty universal knowledge how the DOD funded Top Gun but did you know they also funded a 2012 Katy Perry music video where she gets revenge on her cheating ex-boyfriend by joining the Marines?
Yep, Katy Perry danced around in full combat fatigues underneath an American flag to show that man… he should consider joining the marines, I guess? The U.S. has more women in the armed forces than any other nation, and we hope our progressive values come as a comfort to you after we turn your homeland to craters and Halliburton Snack n’ Gos. Women weren’t allowed in combat until 2013, but there was still plenty of demand for female officers before then. Plenty of demand means plenty of recruiting, and in 1997 if you wanted to get little girls interested in something, you slapped Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s face on it, whether it’s lip-gloss, hairdryers, or military service.
The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley and The Case Of The U.S. Navy Adventure is both a straight-to-video movie and a children’s Early Reader Chapter Book released by the twins’ Dualstar entertainment group. There were 11 Adventures Of Mary-Kate and Ashley movies and corresponding books released from 1994 to 1997, and most of them were vehicles for backdoor advertising to young girls. They were set at locations kids might like to vacation at, like SeaWorld, space camp, a Carnival Cruise ship, etc. At the end of the movie, the girls always say something like, “We solved a mystery, yay! And we couldn’t have done it without BILL’S LEGALLY STILL DRIVEABLE CARS.”
It’s hard to watch The Adventures Of Mary-Kate and Ashley today because the Olsen twins have very understandably scrubbed most of their early movies from the internet as much as is humanly possible. It’s also hard to watch because the Olsen twins do a rap about the Navy in it.
The song was called “If I Ran the Navy” and featured the twins listing some cute things they would change about the Navy, but for some reason they only gave their songwriter an hour to write it, so it’s got lines like, “A few simple changes is all we would make. Did we mention each meal would be full of Bundt cake?” And then they hold up a cake which was extremely poorly made by an intern who didn’t know what Bundt cake was and didn’t try to find out. So here’s a fun fact: you live in a world where it’s easier for a production crew to get access to a naval destroyer than a Bundt cake.
I know it shouldn’t bother me this much that they didn’t get a Bundt cake because they knew no child would know the difference between a Bundt cake and any other kind of cake, but no kids are psyched about Bundt cake! It’s old people’s cake. It’s the cake your grandma disappoints you with when you think you’re going to get a real cake. Every Bundt cake looks like an ancient architect tried to portray the beauty of prolapsed colons with stale cake.
All the writers needed to do was rhyme “bake” with “cake,” and they whiffed it so bad! “Did we mention each meal would be chocolate cake?” Works fine! Or, “Did we mention Mary-Kate owns a radical snake? Making this movie was a huge mistake.” There are so many better options!
You might notice the screencaps from “If I Ran The Navy” include only shots of Mary-Kate and Ashley. This is because they’re the stars of the video, but the novelization adds a pivotal character: Mary-Kate and Ashley’s older brother Trent.
Trent Olsen appeared in a few of the early Mary-Kate and Ashley videos. He was played by their real-life brother “Trent,” in the same way Elizabeth Olsen appeared as their younger sister “Lizzy” in several more Olsen Twins movies. While Trent isn’t in the film at all, he’s a central character in the book– an eleven-year-old boy who thinks the U.S. Navy is really cool.
The typical setup for an Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley movie is an adult calling the twins with a mystery that needs to be solved. They are kid detectives like Nancy Drew, but there are two of them, and they’re real children who hate their jobs. It’s adorable.
In the movies, the twins ride their bikes to wherever the mystery that needs solving is. In the case of The U.S. Navy Adventure, that means riding their bikes to Hawaii, which I’m not at all mad about. It’s adorable kid logic that makes sense in the context of the story. UNLIKE THE BUNDT CAKE. But the author of the novelization of The U.S. Navy Adventure found that too whimsical of a way to get the girls to Hawaii. Instead, she has the twins go to Hawaii with their family after their parents take a job with the U.S. Navy. This also allows the book to squeeze in as much Navy as possible. If they could have renamed the Olsen dog, U.S.NavyRules Olsen, they would have.
Having the whole family there also gives us more Trent time! Trent plays a video game where he’s blowing up aliens as the girls try to help a group of UFO enthusiasts track down what they think might be a crashed alien spaceship. The girls are super annoyed by Trent, which must have sucked for their real-life brother Trent reading about how annoying he is in a popular children’s book.
Since The Olsen family’s dad ran Dualstar before the twins turned eighteen, I have to question his decision to cast his other two children as cheap actors in their productions but limit their roles to minor antagonists for the Olsens.
Trent doesn’t have it as bad as Elizabeth Olsen, who, sure, turned out fine, but at some point in her childhood had to dance to a song about how terrible she was. The song B-U-T-T Out literally has a line that says, “we’d rather be picked up by a twister than tagged along after by a sister,” and Elizabeth Olsen is just right there hanging out. I hope they lied to her about the lyrics and told her it was a song about how she’s super fun and her sisters love her.
Anyway, the girls discover what they think is a crashed UFO that has Chinese writing on it. Their parents arrange for them to meet up with a Navy admiral who’s an old friend of theirs for a Pearl Harbor Navy base tour. The twins tell Admiral Dewey about the “spaceship,” and he tells them that it’s actually a Chinese satellite that’s fallen out of the sky before it’s supposed to. You know, because the Chinese Navy can’t quite live up to the wonder and majesty of the U.S. Navy. Then the Admiral pulls out a T-shirt cannon and starts launching bald eagles out of it into the majestic U.S. skies. Sorry, that’s what would have happened if they had the bald eagle budget.
In the book version of the U.S. Navy Adventure, Trent tags along and makes a bunch of unhelpful comments about his video game. While in the movie version, he continues happily not existing. All of the pictures included in the book are stills from the movie, so they are notably Trentless.
Suddenly it’s revealed that the information the girls received from their UFO enthusiast buddies points to another Chinese satellite crashing to earth in a populated area. The U.S. Navy springs into action!
The Navy is always prepared seems like a weird thing to say at Pearl Harbor but, you know, yikes. Sean, can I say that? Is that too dark?
Editor’s note: Liddy, these brave men and women were trained to navigate around potential ambush sites. By saying these exact words at this exact location, they sailed directly into that punchline. And on the sea, as it is on land, gross incompetence is grounds for ridicule. Besides, if the Navy was serious about eliminating Pearl Harbor jokes, why’d they let Michael Bay direct the movie? Checkmate, ocean.
The only logical thing to do is drag these adorable twin detectives and Trent, especially Trent, along on an adventure to use a laser to explode a satellite. Why a laser and not a missile, you ask? Um, because it was the ’90s and lasers were super cool. Blowing something up with a missile was so ’80s. This is a hip Navy. It’s just like Trent’s video game, a comparison that’s made several times!
We then take some time to learn what everyone’s job is on the Navy ship, complete with Trent gasping, “I wish I could do that!”
“Boy, have I got some paperwork for you to sign, son,” Says the Admiral but first, to blow up that satellite! At this point, the Olsen twins pretty much disappear from the story in favor of Trent, who the Admiral lets show off how good he is at targeting a deadly satellite. Trent nods when he thinks the TAO should fire. Everyone cheers for Trent! The character added to this book at the last second who then slowly took it over!
What was the expected outcome of this? Was the Navy hoping boys would pick up the book because it said U.S. Navy on the cover and skim over most of the Olsen twins stuff until they got to Trent? Did they think a girl might read this for the Olsen twins and then get bored with Trent and pass it off to her older brother, who likes video games and boats? Or does the Navy have such a big budget they can kind of fire money out of their bald eagle cannon at whatever filmmaker happens to be nearby?
We hit one more time that the Navy are heroes, and if only Trent were in the Navy, he could have been a hero too! Curse these anti-child sailor laws! Let Trent enlist! Let Trent enlist! LET TRENT ENLIST!
The Olsen twins give the Admiral a flag with their faces on it– a bold gift. Note to self: give everyone a Sovereign Nation of Liddy flag for Christmas and demand they fly it whenever I visit. The Navy flies the flag, and based on my limited understanding of the military, I think it means the Olsens run the Navy now? Which I guess means there are some lonely men on a big boat eating terrible cake right at this very moment.
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Chris Brower: who loves the Marines almost as much as Zack and Cody — the USMC, that’s the real Suite Life!