Wrongfully Accused (1998)
Wrongfully Accused (1998)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.

Release Date: August 21st, 1998 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Pat Proft Actors: Leslie Nielsen, Richard Crenna, Kelly Le Brock, Melinda McGraw, Michael York, Sandra Bernhard, Aaron Pearl




aestro Ryan Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) is the “Lord of the Violin,” performing in a grand theater to a packed audience. “Wrongfully Accused,” an obvious Nielsen spoof vehicle, immediately slips in visual gags, including an usher wielding a lightsaber, musicians wearing helmets to avoid getting their eyes gouged by Harrison’s wild violin bows, a closing act like a rock concert (complete with the smashing of the instruments), a cameo by sock puppet Lamb Chop, and Lauren Goodhue (Kelly Le Brock) seductively sucking on a cigar. When her husband Hibbing (Michael York) leaves town, she coaxes Ryan to engage in some light adultery (“My head is spinning like a dreidel in a sandstorm!”). Getting mixed up with the murderous Cass Lake (Melinda McGraw), Hibbing is whacked at his Columbia Heights home as part of a secret Irish terrorist plot, dubbed Operation Hylander. Harrison arrives for a little rendezvous with Lauren and is attacked by the assassin – a one-armed, one-legged, one-eyed man – before getting knocked unconscious.

The following morning, the police arrive and haul away Harrison for the crime, for which he’s then promptly convicted and sentenced to be executed. When his Minnesota Department of Corrections transport bus loses control, swerves off the road, and is demolished by a speeding locomotive, Ryan narrowly escapes as a fugitive. A worldwide manhunt with a $50,000 reward is organized by Lieutenant Fergus Falls (Richard Crenna), a man continually barking orders and spouting random trivia at the legions of troopers flocking around him. The pursuit spans from the small Hilltop Village near the wreck all the way back to Hibbing’s house, before Harrison gathers a few clues that lead him to Limbs “R” Us, headquartered in the state’s hospital, and to the heart of a freedom-fighter-schemed hit on Secretary General Robert McKintyre (Gerard Plunkett).

Clearly parodying 1993’s “The Fugitive,” with spoofs of the famous storm drain chase, dam freefall, bus collision, and tracking down of the real killer, this eclectic lampoon doesn’t stop with mere rips of that primary inspiration. “The Usual Suspects,” “On the Waterfront,” “Baywatch,” “Casablanca,” “Mission: Impossible,” “North By Northwest,” “Braveheart,” “Dirty Harry,” “Titanic,” and many more films are aped (the opening scene claims the movie is based on real events from other movies). On top of that, countless unrelated jokes are thrown in, including a goofy sex scene, bayonet accidents, hospital shenanigans, yoyo tricks, a Mentos commercial, dancing, various slapstick-fueled stunts, and even gimmicky end credits. The nonstop barrage has numerous failed bits of humor, but it does land a decent joke now and again. Unfortunately, a large portion of the jests are pop culture-related, which will quickly lose their appeal.

All of the random attempts at laughs aren’t surprising, considering “Wrongfully Accused” is written and directed by Pat Proft, who also penned “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” “Police Academy,” “The Naked Gun,” and “Hot Shots!” among other similar productions. Here, several of the supporting actors take their parts somewhat seriously (Crenna might be the best), which makes Nielsen’s incredibly over-the-top performance just that much more hilarious, while Bill Conti’s momentous score is good enough to stand on its own, despite sounding like many of the action epics it surely borrows from. By the conclusion, no single sight gag is particularly memorable, but sitting through this rather generic yet good-natured parody – which leans toward a pasquinade of Nielsen himself – isn’t unmanageable.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10