It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The critical mind boggles at the opportunity to review “The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.” What can usefully be said about this movie, other than the essential information that I laughed? The plot exists to be disregarded, the characters are deliberately constructed of cardboard, the sight gags are idiotic, and the dialogue is dumb. Really dumb. So dumb you laugh twice, once because of how stupid it is, and the second time because you fell for it.
“The Naked Gun 2 1/2” is not the best of the slapstick parody films by the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker boys; that honor goes to “Top Secret!” (1984) with its inspired performance by Val Kilmer. The movie was a spoof of Elvis Presley musicals and Cold War spy stories, both at the same time, and I still laugh when I remember the spy who is shot and lies dying in an alley, and pulls out a letter that must be mailed by midnight. It’s for one of those Ed McMahon sweepstakes promotions.
“Naked,” etc., stars Leslie Nielsen, first utilized by the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team in the original “Airplane!” in 1980, and since developed into the superstar of this genre. Nielsen’s secret is that he does almost nothing, and certainly nothing he seems to think is funny.
He is the wooden straight guy, unaware of all that’s going on around him, completely lacking in insight, without charm, grace or intelligence, a total square - in other words, everyman. In this movie he plays Lt. Frank Drebin, his character from the old “Police Squad!” TV series, who as the movie opens is a guest of honor at a White House dinner, at which a Barbara Bush lookalike is pummeled with doors and lobsters. Later, as the plot develops, he tries to rekindle his old love affair with Priscilla Presley, while getting to the bottom of an attempt to sabotage the national policy on the ecology.
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One of the most audacious American films from the 1960s is now available via the Criterion Collection.