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Dragnet Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 October 1998


Universal Home Video
MPAA rating: PG-13
starring: Dan Aykroyd, Tom Hanks, Harry Morgan, Alexandra Paul
release year: 1987
film rating: Two and a half stars
sound/picture: Three stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

There is something truly endearing about watching someone do something they've always longed to do. This is probably the biggest selling point of 'Dragnet.' Dan Aykroyd looks like he's been waiting his whole life to out-monotone Jack Webb as that quintessential L.A. cop Sgt. Joe Friday. The actor manages the same weird feat of being gleefully solemn. Essentially, it's a right-side-of-the-law variation on his Blues Brothers persona, but Aykroyd is so serenely at home in the role that the performance winds up being rather touching.

Otherwise, 'Dragnet' is a harmless but uninvolving spoof that never really finds its footing. Directed by Tom Mankiewicz from a script by Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel and Mankiewicz, the movie chronicles the contemporary adventures of Aykroyd's Friday--who is introduced as the nephew of the original Joe Friday--and his new partner Pep Streebek (Tom Hanks) as they attempt to get to the bottom of a crime wave perpetrated by the mysterious People Against Goodness And Normalcy (or "PAGAN" for short).

There are a few amusing gags in the film--one of the best comes in Chapter 8, where Friday and Streebek physically demonstrate for their exasperated boss (Harry Morgan, reprising his original role as Bill Gannon, here promoted to police captain) what they've had to do undercover.

However, 'Dragnet' seems to be trying for the tone of 'Airplane!' while simultaneously letting Hanks' semi-hip Streebek react with disbelief to the weirdness around him. 'Airplane!' sustains its air of sublime lunacy in large part because none of the characters notice that they're in a cartoon environment. Trying to put a sort-of real character into this gonzo universe points up the shortcomings in each--Hanks is nothing if not game and likable, but Streebek remains a smartmouthed sketch. The character points up the artificiality of his surroundings while at the same time reminding us that what's going on isn't really funny enough to withstand this kind of scrutiny.

Despite the skill of cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti, 'Dragnet' isn't particularly exciting to look at or listen to either; it has the slightly flat visual style of any number of '80s mid-budget pictures made by competent people doing their jobs without much inspiration. 'Dragnet' isn't awful or mean-spirited--it bops along pleasantly enough, with a bit of nice human scenery in the form of Alexandra Paul (in her pre-"Baywatch" days). It's an innocuous time-killer, but the jokes don't stay with you once it's over.

more details
sound format:
Dolby Digital
aspect ratio(s):
special features: French and Spanish Language Tracks; English Closed-Captioning; Spanish Subtitles; Original Theatrical Trailer; Chapter Search; Production Notes; Universal Web Links
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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