Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) is a Barbie Doll-like bride whose attempt at a second marriage (she was divorced after six weeks in the first) is cut short when her new husband is felled by a heart attack while making love to her on their wedding night. Judy's domineering father (Sam Wanamaker) treats her like a child so she turns to a surrogate dad who just happens to be an army recruiter. Before she can blink her eyes, our heroine is in basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi. Can Judy find herself at age 29 and win some self-esteem through achievement? Or will she fall back into old patterns of reliance upon men as savior figures? The men who want to make her choices for her are dear old dad, Colonel Clay Thornbush (Robert Webber), and Henri Tremont (Armand Assante), a French doctor. Meanwhile, Captain Doreen Lewis (Eileen Brennan) pressures Judy to conform to regular U.S. Army standards.

Private Benjamin is a comic fairy tale of an upper-middle-class princess who eventually realizes that the kiss of a prince is the kiss of death for her as a person. Howard Zieff's spiffy direction keeps the film on its feet, despite a few rather lengthy digressions. Goldie Hawn, wide-eyed and wonderful to look at, makes her character credible and touching at the same time. Other more broad comic performances which work are those by Eileen Brennan and Albert Brooks as Judy's insistent husband.