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Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, The (1988)

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Score: 8/10

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 25 min.

Release Date: December 2nd, 1988 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: David Zucker Actors: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Susan Beaubian, Nancy Marchand, Raye Birk, Tiny Ron

I

n Beirut, unbelievably embedded Police Squad (a special division of the police department) Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) foils a plan to make the United States appear weak, conducted by the heads of every major geopolitical enemy in the world. He accomplishes this by utilizing “The Three Stooges”-mimicking of physical combat, some convenient hot tea, and startling blind luck – beating them all senseless before returning to his vacation in Lebanon. Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Police Squad Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) is shot six times while spying on the Panamanian ship “I Luv You,” docked at the harbor.

Drebin rushes back to the city to investigate the attempted murder of his longtime partner and friend, starting by interrogating wealthy and suspicious businessman Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban). Ludwig persuades his attractive blonde assistant Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley) to get closer to the detective and find out what he knows. At the same time, Ludwig is hired by international criminal Pahpshmir (Raye Birk) to assassinate the Queen of England (in a “The Manchurian Candidate”-styled brainwashing ploy), arriving within a few days time for a very exclusive tour.

After the cold open, remarkably catchy theme music presides over one of the most recognizable, amusingly-edited credits sequences of any movie (involving a flashing red police siren intrusively cruising through various locations). This is followed by a nonstop succession of jokes, ranging from verbal wisecracks to bathroom humor to destructive accidents (including the decimation of priceless antiques and a high-speed car chase involving a student driver) to James Bond (or “Get Smart”) gizmos (like the Swiss Army Shoe) to a grandly pitiful rendition of the national anthem to goofy montages to inappropriate statues (“sexual assault with a concrete dildo”) to outrageous slapstick to over-the-top overkill violence to classic movie references. The laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of every skit is uncommonly effective. And with so many little visual gags, repeat viewings never lose their appeal.

The dialogue is practically perfect in its silliness, made more impressive considering the rapid-fire and persistently convoluted abundance of one-liners and facetious remarks – countless opportunities to fall flat. Yet the abrasive insensitiveness, idiotic non sequiturs, questionable negotiation tactics, sexual innuendo (“Nice beaver! Thanks, I just had it stuffed”), and sarcastic film noir narrations never struggle in their hilarity. And most of it is delivered by Nielsen, with a superbly contrasting straight face (alternating with glances at the camera and dumbfounded expressions). Based on the short-lived TV series by David Zucker (who serves as director here), Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams (the men behind “Airplane!”), this highly influential feature would enjoy commercial and critical acclaim and two additional theatrical sequels, as well as frequent consideration as one of the greatest comedies in cinema history.

– Mike Massie

 



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