|Naked Gun, The - From the Files of Police Squad!|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 15 August 2000|
In the tradition of ‘Airplane!’, the ZAZ (Jerry Zucker/Jim Abrahams/David Zucker) triumverate carry on with ‘The Naked Gun.’ David Zucker is directing solo here, but the trio and Pat Proft have all delivered a script squarely within the tradition.
‘The Naked Gun’ is actually a feature spin-off of the ZAZ half-hour comedy ‘Police Squad!’, which may have been ahead of its time. The series would likely have thrived today on cable, but back in the mid-‘80s, network prime time was definitely not ready for a ‘Dragnet’ parody filled with nonstop deadpan verbal zingers interspersed with outrageous slapstick. Perhaps TV viewers of the day weren’t ready to keep up with jokes that came in such volume, at such frenetic pace. However, movie audiences lapped up the bigscreen version, which now finds its way back into our homes courtesy of a spiffy DVD transfer.
For those too young to remember, take this on faith (or just see some of his old movies): Leslie Nielsen for years was known for playing the most sober, stern characters imaginable. Seeing him apply that same grim, straight-faced delivery to ZAZ-Proft’s insane dialogue in ‘Airplane!’ ("Stop calling me Shirley") was a revelation that beggars comparison, almost as if John Wayne had turned out to be a brilliant farceur. Nielsen had been scene-stealing support in ‘Airplane!’, but ‘Naked Gun’ is his show all the way and he carries it flawlessly.
Nielsen plays L.A. Police Squad detective Frank Drebin who stumbles (usually literally) over a plot to assassinate the Queen of England. The story mechanics are almost beside the point, but the gags are perennially memorable. There’s the amazing lookalike casting in Chapter 1 at a gathering of world leaders who look like the real thing, Chapter 2’s jaunty p.o.v. from an out-of-control police car that cheerfully crashes through houses, Drebin’s tangle with the Queen (another great lookalike) and a redefinition of "safe sex" in Chapter 13 that may forever after pop up in your brain whenever you hear the term.
The DVD comes with an unusual audio commentary track that, if enabled, turns ‘Naked Gun’ into a MSTK-type experience, with director Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and host Peter Tilden all happily cracking wise when not dispersing bits of trivia. For example, in a rare instance of bowing to good taste, a joke about Catholicism was deleted at the request of gentlemanly, deeply religious Ricardo Montalban, who plays the dastardly villain onscreen with impeccable suavity. An inescapable observation, made by the trio, is that it’s just plain weird to see O.J. Simpson romping along as Drebin’s partner. Some viewers will find Simpson’s subsequent history adds to the humor, while others may find his participation pretty off-putting even in this light context.
The sound in ‘Naked Gun’ is interesting. The DVD reproduction is faithful and laudable, but because the audio effects are calibrated to get laughs, there are moments where elements we’d expect to have amped up are instead slightly tamped down. A prime case in point is Chapter 10, when car airbags inflate uncontrollably, causing a crash that occurs with a subtly solid thud rather AudioRevolution.com DVD Review of THE NAKED GUNthan the vibrating metallic clang most soundtracks would employ. A mass detonation at a fireworks factory in Chapter 12 is similarly calculated for maximum humor rather than decibel level, providing the explosive equivalent of a throwaway line. Chapter 14’s "I’m Into Something Good" by Herman’s Hermits has a perfect ‘60s LP vibration – watch carefully for the little music video credit at the end of the romantic montage.
If you like this DVD, you may also like Airplane!, Hotshots!, Kentucky Fried Movie