#33 The Naked Gun

(1988, David Zucker)

“Not one man on this force will rest one minute until he’s behind bars. Now let’s get a bite to eat”

It was my latest case. I had to watch a film called The Naked Gun, based around a short-lived TV show called Police Squad!, and review it for the Internet. I’d worked plenty of these cases before, but something about this one just didn’t add up.

The film concerned Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), a cop whose friend Nordberg (OJ Simpson) has been attacked and put into a coma. Now he must find who did it and bring them to justice. Along the way he discovers and attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, who is on a royal visit. But as I watched this film, I realised that Drebin was a bumbling fool, and that the world he inhabited was a cartoon version of our own. This was no ordinary cop movie, this was a Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker parody movie. Some research told me that this was a direct result of Airplane!, the movie that made Leslie Nielsen a comedic actor. Wanting to do more comedy, he asked to work with the directors again. They created the show Police Squad before taking the concept and applying it to a full length feature, and this was the result.

As a cop movie, it failed badly, rarely taking itself too seriously and clearly skipping some of the necessary research. It also lacks any real sense of mystery since the villain is revealed early on. I suspected it didn’t want to be a straightforward cop movie, but I needed more evidence. On closer inspection, I noticed sight gags and strange puns in the dialogue, such as when Drebin and the chief walk into another room – the chief uses the door, but Drebin merely walks around the wall of the set. And then some of the events were absurd, like Drebin commandeering a learner driver to help him chase down a suspect. This was a silly movie, it turned out, and shockingly, it made me laugh.

Leslie Nielsen yet again pulled off the deadpan humour he demonstrated in Airplane, only with a little more slapstick. It was less tightly woven than ZAZ’s other major work, with the plot framing the jokes being incredibly flimsy, and the slapstick kind of affecting Nielsen’s ability to be entirely deadpan, which is where he excelled before. This isn’t to say the movie wasn’t enjoyable, it just wasn’t quite as smart.

This was a hard case though. I’d struggled with my Airplane case, since many technical criticisms could easily be brushed away with reference to the fact the movie was a parody, and many of the same difficulties arose this time around. There was an almost unrealistic sense to the world of Naked Gun, a lack of continuity and poor characterisation. However, this was the entire point, and to use any of those criticisms misses the point entirely. It was a caricature, exaggerated for comic effect, and any “flaws” are most likely deliberate.

The conclusion I drew from Naked Gun was that anyone who enjoyed Airplane is likely to enjoy this too. While not quite as well put together as the previous movie, it still provided plenty of laughs and still better than many parody movies that followed (including some atrocious examples from the ZAZ team themselves). I took my report down to the DA’s office and called the case closed, before handing in my badge.

It turns out it wasn’t a real badge anyway, and the DA didn’t even know who I was.

Starring Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, OJ Simpson, Ricardo Moltaban & George Kennedy
Written by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Pat Proft
Produced by Robert K. Weiss, executive producers Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker
Music score by Ira Newborn
Cinematography by Robert M. Stevens
Edited by Michael Jablow

Favourite Scene: Anytime something silly happens involving the Queen.
Scene That Bugged Me: Why is Frank in Beirut in the first place? Never mind, that’s nit-picking in a film that doesn’t even need it.

Watch it if: You carry a big gun
Avoid it if: You’re here for “Weird Al” Yankovic

Originally posted on Blogspot Monday 2 January 2012


Posted on April 11, 2012, in 1980s, Comedy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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