|National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 21 December 1999|
When The National Lampoon first started, it was a spunky, funky and sassy magazine, confident and arrogant, staffed with outstanding writers and artists; it spun off into a mini-industry of clever offshoots, including parodies of high school yearbooks, Sunday comics pages, and other delights. The first Lampoon movie, ANIMAL HOUSE, continued along the same lines -- fast, funny, impudent and deranged.
But since then, especially on movies, the words "National Lampoon" have come to be a warning, not an invitation: see at your own risk, because it ain't gonna be funny, unless it stars Chevy Chase as a bland father, and even then you're on your own. This holds true with NATIONAL LAMPOON'S LOADED WEAPON 1, a dreary, plodding spoof of, mainly, the LETHAL WEAPON movies. But when the spoof isn't half as funny as the original -- which wasn't even a comedy -- you're in big trouble.
Emilio Estevez is Jack Colt, a play-it-by-ear, loner cop suffering from the loss of his beloved, an Irish setter; he teams up with family man Wes Luger (Samuel L. Jackson), who's everything Jack isn't: rule-bound, black and tall. Together, they go after the cocaine ring that's selling Wilderness Girl cookies laced with the drug. The screen story is by Don Holley and Tori Tellem, with the script by Holley and Gene Quintano; Quintano directed, rather badly.
LOADED WEAPON begins well enough, with a funny parody of the by-now clichéd convenience store shootout: everything gets blasted in a cinematic way, including the two bad guys, who take forever to crash in slow-motion through big glass windows. But this movie giveth with one hand, and slappeth with the other: did we really need more Pakistanis behind the counter?
The movie's a lot better at throwaway gags than it is at its big set pieces: Jack leafs through a magazine, and is almost buried in its blow-in cards; after a love-making session, he wanders off through the moonlight, his (artificial and spectacular) bare buns gleaming in the moonlight, out-Gibsoning Gibson; Jack's beachside camper is so gigantic on the inside it requires marble pillars to hold up the ceiling.
But even some of these gags are peculiarly misfired: in a hallway shootout, Jack and Wes meet Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada from "CHiPS" -- but nothing whatever is made of this, they're just there, as are Richard Moll, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Charlie Sheen, Corey Feldman, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Charles Napier, Ric Ducommun, J.T. Walsh, Paul Gleason, even Bruce Willis. It's as if the fact that these people are turning up in a spoof is enough of a joke in itself, but it's not, and only Walsh and Moll try to do something with their cameos. At least when Jimmy Doohan shows up as Scotty, it's a joke in itself.
Whoopi Goldberg has an extended scene at the beginning -- she's Wes' ex-partner -- but she hasn't been this unfunny since THE TELEPHONE. It's not that she does anything wrong, it's that she isn't given anything to do. Again, her presence itself seems to be the joke. F. Murray Abraham is seen as "Dr. Leecher," in an extended parody of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but it's an empty gesture, since it isn't especially funny, and adds nothing to the plot. Jon Lovitz wanders in and out of the movie in a role intended to match Joe Pesci's in the second two LETHAL WEAPON movies, but LOADED WEAPON can't find any more for him to do than the third and fourth LETHAL WEAPONs could for Pesci to do.
Emilio Estevez looks like he's about to smirk throughout most of the movie, which doesn't help matters. Samuel L. Jackson, on the other hand, is precisely on the money -- as always. He's a treasure.
Quintano is neither much of a director nor much of a writer, though he does have at least the theory of parodies right. They need to be played straight, not spoofy, not over the top; the problem here is that he plays some of it so straight that it's too familiar, and paces it so badly that it's usually dull. (No car chases!) On the other hand, the funniest performers in the movie, who aren't given anywhere near enough to do, are William Shatner and Tim Curry as the head bad guys, and they play their roles as broad as a barn. Shatner in particular is not only having a great time, but giving one, too; I especially liked the insouciant way he spits out a piranha. Too bad Curry and Goldberg didn't have a big-grin contest.
Quintano and Holley let the plot get away from them. At the beginning, Goldberg hides a very important microfilm; at the climax, it simply turns up in Jack's hands, with no explanation as to how he knew about it, much less found it. And they don't know how to pay off their climax: the bad guys simply expire routinely, instead of going out in some spectacular fashion, which would be more in keeping with this kind of movie.
I suppose Emilio Estevez wanted his own spoof after his brother Charlie Sheen did so well with the far superior HOT SHOTS (at least the first one), but he should have insisted on a better, more coherent and funnier script. At least LOADED WEAPON isn't very long...
The DVD is a nothing-special edition; the film is preserved for home video use, the disc offers both pan-and-scanned and enhanced/letterboxed versions, plus a few biographies. But there are no outtakes -- there must have been plenty -- and no commentary. If you like the movie, you've probably already bought the DVD. If you've never seen it -- well, there are lots of rental stores.