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With: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Susan Beaubian, Nancy Marchand, Raye Birk, Jeannette Charles, Ed Williams, Tiny Ron, 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Reggie Jackson, Lawrence Tierney
Written by: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Pat Proft
Directed by: David Zucker
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 84
Date: 12/02/1988

The Naked Gun (1988)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Odd Squad

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1982, the creators of Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and Airplane! (1980), Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams, created a television show, "Police Squad!" It was a half-hour comedy, a spoof of cop shows, totally deadpan and without a laugh track. It lasted six episodes, presumably because people thought they were watching an actual bad cop show rather than a comedy. But six years later, the ZAZ team brought back their creation for a big screen treatment, and it paid off. Leslie Nielsen stars as Lt. Frank Drebin, who tries to solve the attempted murder of his partner, Det. Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) in the brief time before the Queen of England visits. He suspects that the wealthy Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban) is behind it, as well as a potential plot to assassinate the Queen! Ludwig's secretary Jane (Priscilla Presley) is supposed to find out what Drebin knows, but winds up falling for him. Of course, the plot matters not a whit, as the film spends every waking second firing off jokes of all types. Sometimes they're strange, sometimes they're broad, sometimes they're ridiculous, and oftentimes, they fly by without a setup or a payoff. Overall, The Naked Gun is not as totally deadpan as Airplane!, but it's far more subtle and stone-faced than later attempts at this type of comedy (it makes me sad to think that American audiences are growing too dumb for true deadpan humor). Nielsen in particular is superb, cracking his fa├žade for only the biggest of jokes (such as the inadvertent trashing of Ludwig's office). The success of this film made a comic star out of Nielsen, and his performances continue to grow bigger and broader (see Spy Hard, Mr. Magoo, Superhero Movie, etc.), all but forgetting the deadpan style that established him. Fortunately, the two sequels were still pretty funny.

DVD Details: Paramount has re-released the film in a 2009 DVD with new "I Love the 80's" packaging -- with a bonus CD of 1980s music -- though the DVD itself doesn't appear to have been improved or updated in any way. Extras include a commentary track and a trailer.

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