Thursday 2 September 2021

Movie Review: The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad! (1988)

A crime comedy, The Naked Gun adopts a scattershot approach to humour and finds frequent hilarious highlights.

After disrupting a meeting of anti-American leaders in Beirut, detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) returns to Los Angeles where his special Police Squad is placed in charge of security for the upcoming visit of Queen Elizabeth II. When his former partner detective Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) is almost killed investigating a drug shipment at the port, Drebin suspects wealthy shipping tycoon Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban) of involvement in an evil plot.

Supported by his supervisor Captain Ed Hocken (George Kennedy), Drebin initiates an affair with Ludwig's assistant Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley) to find out what she knows. But Drebin and Jane fall truly in love, complicating the investigation. Ludwig redoubles his efforts to terminate both Nordberg and Drebin as the Queen's visit draws near.

The 1982 Police Squad! television show lasted a grand total of six episodes, but found a legacy as inspiration for big-screen madness. A combination of satire, slapstick and silliness, The Naked Gun is relentless. The writing team of Jerry and David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Pat Proft grabs every opportunity to throw in yet another joke is an exuberant display of more is better, and mostly it is. While of course a fair share of the intended laughs don't land, enough mayhem is generated to trample over the slow spots.

With David Zucker directing, the epic moments arrive at a fast and furious pace. The pre-credit sequence sets the stage with Drebin gate-crashing a summit of America's most notorious foes of the era. Then his first meeting with Ludwig in the businessman's lavish office instigates an awkward tangle with a rare and expensive fish. Nordberg's shooting and subsequent slow-motion collapse successfully spoofs over-elaborate movie death scenes.

The Queen's gala dinner sets-up the enduring image of Drebin's missionary rescue, and the prolonged climax at a baseball game is a laugh riot, starting with the immortal absconsion of opera singer Enrico Pallazzo and continuing through to the animated umpire exploits.

At the centre of the humour is Leslie Nielsen in imperious form, his deadpan delivery and clueless demeanour a worthy spiritual successor to Inspector Clouseau. Ricardo Montalban is an oily villain, and Priscilla Presley gets in on the fun as the breathy femme not-so-fatale.

As for plot, logic, physics, or common sense, none of it matters. The Naked Gun is fully loaded with madcap frivolity.

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