|Naked Gun 33 1/3, The: The Final Insult|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 15 August 2000|
The last of the 'Naked Gun' movies is definitely the least of the 'Naked Gun' movies. There are still plenty of gags, but fewer of them work, more seem desperate, and even more seem mechanical and by rote. Furthermore, over the course of the films, Leslie Nielsen unwisely chose (or was directed) to play his role as Lt. Frank Drebin more and more broadly. In the TV series that gave rise to the movies (surely at six episodes, the shortest-lived series ever to be given this treatment), as well as in 'Airplane,' his first comedy of this nature, Nielsen played the role as straight as if he was in a standard crime action melodrama. This is by far the best approach to this material; nothing kills comedy more quickly or more thoroughly than someone acting like they think they're funny -- and that's what Nielsen does all too often in his later run of spoof movies.
Originally, the big joke was that Leslie Nielsen, of all people was even in these movies in the first place, but as he's told many an interviewer, he feels he spent the first thirty years of his career cast against type. In real life, he's full of gags, a warm, funny guy who loves to laugh and to make others laugh as well. An admiring filmmaker once gave the actor what he thought of as the best compliment of his career: "Nielsen, you swing with a cracked bat." Too bad, then, that he has chosen to show us that his bat is cracked.
There's something of a plot in 'Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.' Frank Drebin has retired from the LAPD's Police Squad to a life of happy domesticity with his new wife, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley). Meanwhile, however, grim-faced Muriel Dillon (the priceless Kathleen Freeman) is meeting with her imprisoned son Rocco (Fred Ward). Rocco is a terrorist bomber (but acts like a B-movie thug) who has been masterminding bombings of government buildings while still in prison.
Frank's former boss, Capt. Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) and his former partner, Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) talk Frank into returning to work to investigate suspicious statuesque blonde Tany Peters (Anna Nicole Smith), who seems to have links to Rocco Dillon. This leads to a long, not-as-funny-as-they-thought sequence at a fertility clinic, and to Jane thinking Frank is having an affair. She storms out, apparently primarily to become a central figure in yet another spoof of 'Thelma and Louise.'
For his part, Frank enters prison to find out more about Rocco, and they break out together. They rendezvous with Muriel and Tanya, and somehow Jane shows up there, too. This time, Rocco's evil scheme is to blow up the Oscar ceremony, though the word "Oscar" is never used. Mostly, it results in appearances by a few guest stars, including Elliott Gould, Florence Henderson, Weird Al Yankovic, Cathy Rigby and Raquel Welch, who's pretty game about all this, but not very funny.
Neither, unfortunately, is the movie. If you set your sights pretty low, you'll have a good time, but it's a long way from the first 'Naked Gun' movie -- and even that was a long way from the drier, more subtle (if that's the word), more adept TV series. Here, the actors coming off the best are Presley, Kennedy and Ward, each of whom sticks to the straight and narrow.
There's nothing special about the sound on this DVD; it's standard-issue stuff, even though it is Dolby 5.1. The music by Ira Newborn is excellent; he never goes for gags, but instead provides a just barely over-the-top, almost legitimate-sounding cop movie score.
In addition to the usual DVD stuff of language and scene selections, a trailer and so forth, there's a crowded commentary track featuring David Zucker, Robert K. Weiss (two of the producers and founding fathers of the Naked Gun franchise), director Peter Segal and, somewhat curiously, associate producer Michael Ewing. They all sound like they're having a good time, but much of the time, it's impossible to tell who's who. Gang commentary tracks like this are generally not a good idea, and this is a case in point.
As can be said of many a film, if this is the kind of movie you like, you'll like this one -- but if you had problems with the second 'Naked Gun,' skip over this. Rent a Marx Brothers movie instead.