The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad! Reviews
If there is a man, woman or child on this earth who can say, hand on heart, that they just don't find Airplane, Naked Gun, Police Squad and the like funny then I would very much like to meet the sad sack just to discover what it takes to elicit a smile from them. Needless to say, this sort of film is very much my type of thing but not to the point where I cannot spot a good one from a bad one. In fact one of the big downsides of this film is that it did create many copies that just couldn't do it as well ? so we have had spoofs of all sorts of genres recently, but too many have more hits than misses.
It is to this films credit that it has a very high hit/miss ratio and I enjoy it so much because the laughs keep coming. The material is very silly but it is the constant straight face that it delivers it with that is perfect and makes it work. Other films of the ilk have been overly silly without keeping this straight face. However, our characters here seem oblivious ? apart from the odd one who gives the other a funny look etc, and this makes the goings on even funnier. The plot is silly but that doesn't matter as you will be laughing too much to really care. Having seen it so often I have stopped roaring the way I did the first time but I still chuckled all the way.
The writing and direction is spot on ? delivering sharp lines that make me laugh due to their sheer unexpectedness or the way they are so very out of place as well as sight gags that are imaginative and clever. However lets not forget a delivery by a very talented cast who make the material work. Praise goes to Nielsen in the lead; he may have worn his role thin over the years with typecasting and, shall we say 'less than perfect' material but give him the tools and he'll do you a job. He can be straight, he can dither or he can just be a clown and he does them all here ? his delivery is great whether it's action or reaction shots. Likewise I felt the rest of the cast did well even if most of them are given reaction shots to Drebin. Presley is straight and funny for it while Kennedy seems to fit into the material with ease. OJ doesn't have as much chance to be funny and seems a little stiff in the scenes he is in, but he is still good ? just pales a little when next to the others. I love Montalban and he uses his ooze really well in this film ? and his reaction shots are very good. The support is all good but it is Nielsen doing his (now) time-honoured turn as spoof-master than steals the show.
Overall I love this genre and consider this film (indeed the series) to be up there with Police Squad and Airplane. It is not as hilarious as Airplane but it has way more hits than misses and is relentlessly funny. As a film it isn't perfect but anyone watching this who complains about plot holes, lack of character development or lack of narrative really have missed the point.
Nielsen plays Lt. Frank Drebbin, a seemingly incompetent cop who manages to nonetheless to get the job done. In the beginning of the movie, he busts a meeting filled with "evil" world leaders including Idi Amin, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Gorbachev ("I knew it!" Drebbin yells as he rubs off the mark on Gorbachev's forehead). But when he suspects that a shady character named Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban from "Fantasy Island") is plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth, nobody except his captain, Ed Hocken (played by another serious actor who shows a great ability with comedy, George Kennedy) is willing to take him seriously. His retractors include the mayor (played by Nancy Marchand, later of "The Sopranos"), who after a series of pratfalls that make Drebbin look like an idiot (it's not hard) takes his badge. But Drebbin is determined to prove his case, even if it means posing as opera star Enrico Pullazo and an umpire to do it, and prevent the assassination of the queen.
There's a love story between Drebbin and Jane Spencer, played by Priscilla Presley, who is also not ready to accept that her boss Ludwig is a murderer, and O.J. Simpson provides support (and some of the funniest scenes in the movie) as the hapless Det. Nordberg, who can't seem to avoid getting hurt time and time again. Admit it, it's a hoot watching these scenes now and imagining that the real O.J. is the one nearly being killed.
The movie was made by Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker, the team also responsible for "Airplane!", and is based on the cult classic TV show (cancelled before its time because, of course, it was too much for the dumb TV audiences to be able to follow) "Police Squad!" I think it can be easily argued that it's because of the material provided by these geniuses that Nielsen is so funny; God knows he can't be in anything not created by them. But let's give Leslie Nielsen some credit; NOBODY does deadpan like him. And he gets strong support from the rest of the cast. There are some hilarious one-liners and sight gags here; one of my favorites is the final scene with Nordberg ("Oh Frank! Everybody should have a friend like you!"). Also notable are the cameos throughout, including "Weird Al" Yankovic, Reggie Jackson, Dick Vitale, Dick Enberg, Dr. Joyce Brothers (as a baseball announcer!), and best of all John Houseman in his final screen appearance, playing a driving instructor in a car Drebbin has to take control of for a chase; the poor teenage girl is still driving, and Houseman is calmly directing her on how to do it, as they speed down the highway. This is classic stuff, and even though its not a serious role, I'm glad he had something so memorable for his last movie.
"Naked Gun" is as consistently funny as "Airplane!" and is still one of the funniest movies ever, and gave further proof that the Zuckers are one of the greatest spoofmakers of all time.
Jane - I wanted you to know, now, I've loved you since the first day I met you, and I'll never stop. I'm a very lucky woman.
Frank - So am I