While there are plenty of things to envy regarding today’s youth (how I wish I had the technology available at their fingertips when I was in my teens!), I can say with some nostalgic pride that I’m pleased to have lived through the heights of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker filmmaking.
So take that, all you society-changing innovations!
All right, so the filmmakers are still around but their best output, in my humble opinion, occurred roughly from 1977 and the release of their first feature, The Kentucky Fried Movie, through the early to mid-1990’s.
In between that time they released what I consider is one of the all time best comedy films ever made, Airplane! as well as one of the funniest, again IMHO, TV shows ever made, the sadly short lived Police Squad! (6 episodes were made in 1982). That show’s concept and characters (as well as lead actor Leslie Nielsen) would return for the more successful Naked Gun films, three of which were made between 1988 and 1994. I consider the first of the three films the best of the lot -and it is really high up there on my list of all time favorite comedy films ever made- but the other day I got to see the second one all the way through and here are my thoughts…
To begin, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear is not as good as the original The Naked Gun but I knew that going in. So much time had passed since the last time I saw NG 2 1/2 that I wanted to experience it again as fresh as possible. I did, and most of the material really worked well…while some of it didn’t.
I’ll get to the not so good first: The film really starts on an emotional downer. Sure, the original The Naked Gun did as well. If you don’t recall, the original film, post credits, had us find Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin’s (Leslie Nielsen, absolutely nailing the role) wife had left him. Eventually and through the course of the movie he finds love with Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley showing some great comedy chops as well).
NG 2 1/2 similarly opens on an emotional downer as this time we find that Drebin and Jane have split up in the time between the films and, while one of this movie’s themes is their reconciliation/re-connection, those opening minutes with Drebin being down and out regarding the breakup are played, in my opinion, a little too long. We don’t want a comedy to dwell too long on sadness! Thankfully, even through this rougher patch there are plenty of great sight-gags and verbal screw ups to keep us going and, after a while, the movie finds its footing and hums along.
George Kennedy, as Drebin’s partner Ed Hocken, is a particular delight this time around and has some of the funniest lines/scenes. Check out this trailer for the movie and pay particular attention to the 1:25 mark and Mr. Kennedy’s response to Drebin congratulating him on his wife’s pregnancy:
They don’t make humor like that anymore!
The movie’s funniest scene, again in my opinion, involves Mr. Kennedy and one of the biggest cop show cliche’s ever, that inevitable point where the cop puts his badge away and goes “mano a mano” against a criminal. The clip below features that joke and its set up which leads to one of the funniest payoffs:
What can I say? I really like this silly type of humor!
While NG 2 1/2 isn’t quite up to the level of the first Naked Gun as I already mentioned before, I still enjoyed the hell out of myself watching it again and therefore it is an easy film to recommend.
So easy, in fact, that I might just give Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult a spin next…