|Naked Gun 2 1/2, The: The Smell Of Fear|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 15 August 2000|
Don’t mind the title. This is really plain old ‘Naked Gun 2,’ with the ‘1/2’ added purely for the sake of silliness – like just about everything else in the movie.
Leslie Nielsen reprises his role as Police Lt. Frank Drebin from TV’s short-lived ‘Police Squad!’ comedy and the original ‘Naked Gun’ feature. The impossibly obtuse cop is as accident-prone as ever, still managing to save the day through sheer klutziness. This time, he’s trying to rescue a scientist whose new energy formula poses a threat to the polluting powers that be. Drebin being Drebin, he’s as much a threat to the scientist and the public at large as he is to the villains, but such is the price of police protection – according to the tongue-in-cheek gospel of ‘Naked Gun 2 1/2,’ anyway.
The film has a respectable amount of good lines and sight gags – including some nonsense in the Chapter 15 closing credit crawl that’s worth watching – and it’s certainly diverting, but something is missing. That "something" may well be the hands-on participation of Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, who co-wrote the first movie with director David Zucker and Pat Proft (David Zucker and Proft share script credit here). When the jokes work, they’re inspired, but too often, schtick is substituted for invention; we get the feeling that we’ve seen versions of this material 1 1/2 times already.
The picture is sharp, but the color hues make ‘Gun’ look a bit older than it is. Perhaps this is deliberate – after all, the film is spoofing ‘60s cop shows. The Chapter 11 mockumentary footage of a training school for oil tanker captains definitely captures the look and feel of the inane educational film strips that were inflicted on grade schoolers in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The sound is generally decent, although – just as in the first ‘Naked Gun’ – effects that we might ordinarily expect to be deafening are underplayed for laughs. However, in Chapter 7, a tank gone amok produces a wide variety of smashes and crashes that resonate over a whole range of pitches, giving dimension every environment featured in the sequence.
Furthermore, it’s at times hard to tell here whether an unrealistic mix is accidental or another joke, deliberately commenting on the action. The torch singer in Chapter 5 doesn’t quite sound like she’s in the same club with Drebin and his pal, but then, the muscle-man torso that pops conspicuously into one of Drebin’s love scenes is clearly meant to look as unlike as Nielsen as possible.
Like its predecessor, the ‘Naked Gun 2 1/2’ DVD comes with an audio commentary track from director Zucker, producer Robert Weiss and host Peter Tilden. The best anecdote may come in Chapter 6, with Zucker recounting a mortifying moment during which a bit player inadvertently but thoroughly insulted Robert Goulet, who plays the villain. The commentary track features closed-captioning, so that the action can be comprehended as it unfolds under the laughing observations of the filmmakers.
There’s nothing wrong with slapstick, but too many gags that should be throwaways are protracted past their punchlines in ‘Naked Gun 2 1/2.’ The film is amusing, but there’s a weird sense of missed potential. If Zucker and Proft had beefed up the wafer-thin plot just a bit and gone heavier on the satire than the pratfalls, it might have been hilarious.
If you liked this DVD, you might like The Naked Gun, Airplane! and Dragnet