Dick Steele, Agent WD-40 is assigned by his Director, to stop the evil General Rancor from destroying the world. WD-40 believed Rancor was dead and he teams up with the hot K.G.B. Agent Veronique Ukrinsky to find Rancor and save the world.
A re-run of many of the gags from the original TV series 'Police Squad'. An Airplane type spoof, this time with the an incompetent lieutenant (Drebin) who always 'gets his man'. Visual gags come thick and fast, and it's impossible to catch them all with one viewing. The plot.. Queen Elizabeth II of England is coming to town, and Vincent Ludwig has plans to assassinate her using a brainwashed baseball player. Written by
The real question that "The Naked Gun" poses is not why it's one of the funniest spoofs ever made, but why virtually no subsequent movie in this genre has been any good at all. I used to adore this sort of movie when I was a kid--"Airplane," "Top Secret," and the six-episode "Police Squad" show, which became the basis for the "Naked Gun" series, were among the funniest films I knew. When I first saw "The Naked Gun" in the theater when I was eleven, I was in uncontrollable laughter for the first few minutes. That was my standard of great humor at the time.
But the following decades gave us a variety of similar spoof films, some of which involved one or more of the Zucker-Abrams-Nielsen team, and none of these films were even remotely in the league of their predecessors. These included "Hot Shots," "Loaded Weapon 1," "Jane Austen's Mafia," "Spy Hard," "Wrongfully Accused," and "Scary Movie." These films would typically feature some funny stuff, but you'd walk away indifferently, wondering what the overall point was. Seeing a ponytailed Leslie Nielsen imitating John Travolta's dance sequence in "Pulp Fiction" is funny for a second, but there's nothing enduring about such humor. An entire movie filled with such scenes doesn't amount to much. What's the big deal about such jokes, anyway? There's nothing intrinsically funny about making references to other films, even if you do it in a silly way. At what point did the genre go wrong and become such a dreary, uninspired affair? Is it that I've just outgrown this sort of humor?
I have another theory. When I first watched "The Naked Gun" at age eleven, I had not seen many of the movies it was spoofing, such as the early James Bond pictures. I was vaguely familiar with some of the clichés it was making fun of, but many of the political and sexual jokes went right over my head. And the celebrity cameos meant nothing to me. So what was it about the film that appealed to me so much, that made me laugh till my sides hurt?
The answer is simple: it was the film's utter silliness. Think of the scene at the beginning when we discover that Ayatollah Khomeini secretly sports a mohawk underneath his turban. Or the opening credits where the police car goes on the sidewalk, inside buildings, on a roller coaster, and so on. None of this makes any sense, of course; it's just an exercise in pure absurdity. I loved "The Naked Gun" for pretty much the same reason I loved the Three Stooges or Bugs Bunny cartoons. Even as an adult, I appreciate unsubtle cartoon humor when it is handled effectively. As long as it makes me laugh, who cares that it's not "sophisticated"? For example, the scene where Lt. Drebin breaks into a building and tries to be as quiet as possible, but then inadvertently sets off a player piano, is masterfully filmed.
Thus, "The Naked Gun" is farce as much as it is satire. As I grew older, I would gain a greater appreciation for the one-liners, like "You take a chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street or sticking your face in a fan." To be sure, many of these jokes are dumb. They're supposed to be. That's the whole point. What I understood even at age eleven was that the movie was essentially playing games with the audience. When Lt. Drebin looks in a drawer and says "bingo," I knew immediately that the drawer would reveal a bingo board. I was used to this sort of humor, because I'd seen it in the earlier Zucker-Abrams films, where the jokes had a definite logic to them, and trying to predict them in advance was part of the fun. They have far more to do with audience anticipation than with trying to make us laugh at bad puns.
The modern spoof films have forgotten all this. They've forgotten that making a good spoof requires a measure of invention, even if much of the plot is ripped off from elsewhere. Car chases may not be original, but "The Naked Gun" is, as far as I know, the first film in which the chase is conducted by a student driver. This type of cleverness is largely absent from the modern spoofs, which assume that they have no reason to be creative when their ideas are based broadly on other films. They've forgotten that the most effective way to make fun of a cliché is by coming up with an ingenious twist. Even the characters in films like these matter, and Lt. Drebin is crafted in the grand tradition of other inept lawmen like Inspector Clousseau. This is what gives the film its own personal stamp that makes it more than an exercise in movie references.
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