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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Retro Review: Dragnet (1987)

Cast: Dan Ackroyd, Tom Hanks, Christopher Plummer, Harry Morgan, Alexandra Paul
Genre: Buddy Cop Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $66.7 million 

Plot: The equally straight laced and by- the- book nephew of Joe Friday must work with his more laid-back partner to solve a mystery

'Crime Caper That Hasn't Held Up Too Well & Of Which Is A Bit Of A Drag'

As I did with many other 1980s movies, I watched Dragnet as a child and enjoyed it a lot and yet in revisiting it today, it hasn't held up too well and the comedy ought to have been far more consistent also. The laughs and the jokes never made the grade and a lot of them came off as flat and too forced for me to buy into it. That, and the whole formula and set-up is too predictable, stiff and it feels as though the director and writer didn't do more to make Dragnet worthwhile. 

Dan Ackroyd is Sgt Joe Friday, the so-called nephew of Jack Webb's character & cop who acts as the straight man to wise guy Tom Hanks's Pep Streeback, Friday's new partner in crime. Assigned to investigate a series of crimes carried out by a gang going by the initials of P.A.G.A.N, Streeback and Friday seek to infiltrate the organisation. 

The film also marks as one of Tom Hanks's earlier attempts before he became a fully- fledged dramatic actor where he dabbled in Comedy; he did this with The Money Pit, Bachelor Party, Punchline, The Burbs, Big, Splash throughout the 1980s and whilst they have been a mixed bag in terms of quality, I do miss that side of Hanks where he was all goofy, silly and also having fun. I enjoyed the scenes where he was being silly and Hanks's turn here is not bad with him making occasional silly comments, but these moments were so few and far between. That, and he had to make do with such inconsistent -yet less amusing material.

The pairing and rapport of Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks should have amounted to a whole lot more, humour-wise; instead, Dragnet was mostly boring and it clearly struggles throughout in terms of eliciting genuine laughs. It was like the film was more wrapped up in emphasizing the traits of Friday and Streeback and less so on developing and understanding what is going around them and being aware of the situations they are in. 

It is a film that, over time, hasn't aged well at all and it is as such that for a film remake, this was a squandered opportunity for the writers to do something more with it and to bring out more of say, the farcical and slapstick comedy that would have further elevated this movie. 

Dragnet is a buddy cop comedy which has virtually so little comedy in it, or be it jokes which practically do not resonate as well today, as it did in the mid -1980s. 

Final Verdict:

The comedy here just doesn't come together very well, nor is there more of it when it is expected. Dragnet should have been far better, but in hindsight, it fails to capitalise on the humour and in making it more wacky and silly. There are definitely flaws in this film and one that hasn't stood the test of time, 30 + years on. 

The case itself is not all that interesting and the plot is rather bland.

Dragnet tries so hard to be funny: the thing is quality-wise, the humour and comedy isn't on par or all that great and quantity-wise, there isn't more of it in abundance with only brief flashes of it. And that is what is makes it so disappointing. 

It has its fans, who in particular, followed the TV show, but with so many other buddy cop comedy films out there, Dragnet falls way short and behind so many of its rivals. 


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