Dir: David Zucker, 1988
The USA has a track record of cancelling TV shows before they get any chance of finding an audience. ABC’s 1982 spoof cop show, Police Squad!, was a victim of this highly unfair practice.
Created by the threesome responsible for the hit movie Airplane!, the procedural cop series was a spoof an earlier police drama, M Squad.
Starring Leslie Nielsen as Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad! was entirely in the same vein as Airplane! with stupid gags and general buffoonery taking centre stage. Like the preceding movie, everything was played straight.
But, an executive at the company felt it didn’t work and got rid of it, explaining that viewers wouldn’t like as it had to be watched to notice the humour.
However, despite low viewing figures, the series had many fans which grew thanks to repeats.
Another TV series was off the cards, so the guys decided to turn it all into a film; The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad!
Reprising his role from the show, Leslie Nielsen is Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin of police department Police Squad.
When officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) is shot and almost killed, Drebin and his Captain, Ed Hocken (George Kennedy), work to solve who was behind it and uncover a plot to assassinate the Queen.
Transferring a thirty minute TV show to a feature length film, is rarely successful. Stretching the characters and jokes for extended periods of time wears thin, and the premise can’t sustain the demand that a film needs.
But The Naked Gun is a kin of that very rare breed, where the movie is equally as good as it’s origins. A gut burstingly funny ninety minutes of zany comedy and rude humour, culminating in a frenzy of hilarity.
Nielsen as Drebin, is perfectly cast. Never mind Forbidden Planet, THIS is the role that he was born for. Ridiculous, silly and played entirely straight, Nielsen is the undisputed king of spoof.
Taking over the role from Alan North, George Kennedy is Ed Hocken and does a great job. He suits the character better than North did.
As the voluptuous blonde, the ex-Mrs. Elvis is brilliant, displaying a flair for comedy that hadn’t previously been seen.
Here, the jokes come thick and fast. It will take several viewings to catch them all. From the outline of a body floating on the water to Drebin walking around the walls of the film set, any gag that the writers can think of is in here.
Most spoof films are unashamedly and unapologetically unintelligent, with the only proviso being that it’s funny. The Naked Gun, however, has some rather clever jokes and impressive dialogue. A back and forth between Drebin and a informer, with money being exchanged, is brilliant.
Blatantly advertising that many of the gags are recycled, anybody familiar with the 1982 show will recognize several of the set ups. But, none of this detracts from the enjoyment of the film. Still immensely hilarious, none of the jokes have aged and everything still feels fresh and new.
Some people will argue, but The Naked Gun is superior to Airplane! as it doesn’t scramble for gags towards the end.
This final film written by ZAZ, is a laugh a second, belly aching blockbuster of a movie, that is infinitely re-watchable.