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Sunday, 7 January 2018

Retro Review: The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad (1988)

The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, OJ Simpson, George Kennedy
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $78 million 

Plot: Incompetent police detective Frank Drebin must foil an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II

'Goofy Cop Spoof Comedy Classic That Still Has It In Bucketloads'

After the huge success of Airplane!, its creators in the Zucker Bros struck comedy gold yet again with their light-hearted spoofs and again by enlisting the help of Leslie Nielsen, who appeared in the 1980 disaster movie, this time around they turned their attention to the cop and crime genre with Police Squad. The success of the cult comedy TV show meant that over time, a feature-length film, based on the hit TV series, was about to loom on the horizon. When it did and by doing so, it catapulted Leslie Nielsen's status as a comedic performer and propelled Frank Drebin to worldwide status and beyond that of the U.S of the Police Squad's original origins. For a brief while. 

Frank Drebin is one of New York's finest -, well, not quite; he is very bumbling and incompetent, but he is also amusing with a very droll sense of humour, who has to go out of his way to save Queen Elizabeth II from being assassinated at a baseball game. 

Pratfalls, slapstick, comedic silliness, the one-liners and gags, even though Leslie Nielsen hasn't appeared and starred in many movies as other comedic actors, he's still one of my favourites of the genre, because of his style of comedy and natural ability to make people laugh. Although that is mostly down to the Zucker bros hilarious and humourous writing. The sight gags & silly puns are still rib-ticklingly funny and the deadpan comedy and humour are easily accessible and understandable enough for anyone to get the jokes and to laugh along with and at the characters. It might also be low-brow and farcical, but it is clean, not too vulgar and never mean-spirited that will put off general audiences and as long as you get the literal meaning, it makes the viewing experience of The Naked Gun, all the more enjoyable. Like with Airplane!, the main cast in this movie does a terrific job bringing the Zucker bros style of comedy to life through their own individual turns. The running gag of Frank driving his car through trash cans and whatnot and knocking things, and people over, never tires for me. 

If Airplane! opened up the 1980s in a big way, then The Naked Gun's release towards the latter end of the decade closed it in a good way, and as one of the last-ever comedy films representing this latter period, it concluded on a huge and joyful high. Despite its TV episodic feel, The Naked Gun is still a goofy, goofball comedy that knows how to make fun of the cop genre, and with good taste as well. This style or type of humour may not be to everyone's tastes and whilst comedy films have moved on from this style (and for the worse, if current and modern comedies are anything to go by), this, as well as Robin Williams's style, will never get old for me, nor will I ever tire of it. The so-called sexual innuendos (such as Frank lying on top of the Queen with his head between her legs!) are played for laughs & with their double entendre meaning: they sound saucy and dirty, but visually, it is innocent, well most of it, and very playful in its execution. 

Even 30 years on, there is something that I find not only refreshing and good to see a comedy relying on good, clean, slapstick fun & sight gags and where gross-out gags and usage of profanity to garner laughs were nowhere to be seen. Comedy-wise, whilst it is not at the same level as Airplane!, nor tops that effort, nor did I laugh as much here, this still made me giggle and laugh in places and it is still the same style as it was in Airplane! and it doesn't feel out of place. 


Final Verdict:

The phrase 'they don't make them like they used' applies to so many movies of yesteryear and with comedies from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, they were truly the best decades for the genre in film. The Naked Gun most certainly deserves to be lauded as the definition of the (almost) perfect slapstick comedy spoof, alongside Airplane! There is just not one joke that doesn't land because each and every one of them does.

Leslie Nielsen's trademark buffoonery is one I will always get used to and despite his lack of consistent success on the movie front, he will still be in my eyes one of my favourite comedic actors alongside that of Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. 

Dumb and low brow humour maybe, but you know what? I still dig it, and that is something I don't feel ashamed in saying.  


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