Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) loves a mystery. Why are we here? Is there life after sex? Yes, Drebin tackles the big issues – and the biggest of all is how to stop devious Quentin Hapsburg’s (Robert Goulet) plan to destroy the environment!
Returning with Nielsen in this hilarious Naked Gun sequel are Priscilla Presley as Jane, the woman who can melt a cheese sandwich from 20 paces and George Kennedy as intrepid Cap. Ed Hocken. That gang’s all here. And so are the laughs. Like Drebin, you’re gonna love it!
eyelights: the absurd situations and over-the-top gags.
eyesores: there’s too much mugging for the camera.
Lt. Frank Drebin: “Miss, I’m Lt. Frank Drebin, and this is Captain Ed Hocken, Police Squad.”
Busty Female Shop Assistant: “Is this some kind of bust?”
Lt. Frank Drebin: “Well… it’s very impressive, yes, but we need to ask you a few questions.”
I don’t know what’s going on. I used to simply ADORE the ‘Naked Gun‘ films. Have I watched them too often in the last couple of decades? Has the humour gotten stale, subjugated by so many carbon copy cats that it is no longer in a class of its own? Or have I simply become a Mr. Poopy Pants, unable to enjoy the finer things in life?
I don’t know, and no one can make me.
What I do know is that ‘The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear’ has a long title. Another thing that I know for sure is that is that it’s probably slightly better than ‘The Naked Gun 2’. I also know that, despite all false pretenses, it doesn’t stink one bit. In fact, it’s still quite funny. Well, funnier than biking naked without a seat on, anyway.
It’s also topical. At least, it’s topical now. Which means that it was probably ahead of its time then. Or it wasn’t, and we’re just really late to the party. I hate being late to a party. I don’t care what they say: it’s simply not fashionable, it’s rude. Plus which you miss out on all the good door prizes. Also, the paté is usually sloppy and full of crumbs by then.
Bizarrely, this particular ‘Naked Gun’ has more substance than the average comedy. Or the average Playboy centerfold. Probably both. Bared of its humoristic contrivances, revealed in all its splendour, it is in fact a plea for societal responsibility with respect to the environment, for sanity in a world of growing corporate collusion and political inaction.
The plot: The coal, oil and nuclear industries are concerned that a leading researcher, Dr. Albert Meinheimer, will influence then-president George Bush’s energy policy to their detriment, so they conspire to substitute him for a pawn of their own. Thankfully, Lt. Frank Drebin is on the case, haphazardly tripping over clues and bumbling his way into foiling their plan.
Lt. Frank Drebin: “Have you noticed anything different about him?”
Jane Spencer: “Well, only that he’s a foot taller, and he seems to be left handed now… Frank, what are you trying to tell me? That Quentin has somehow found an exact double for Dr. Mainheimer and that tomorrow that double will give a fraudulent report to the president?”
Lt. Frank Drebin: “Why that’s brilliant, that’s a lot better than what I came up with.”
The key problems with this film are the same as the previous film, but not the same as this other film I saw:
1) It’s too naked: there are still not enough layers of humour, going instead with one slow punch at a time. ‘Police Squad‘ was definitely better in that respect, even if it was corny. ‘The Naked Gun 2½’ is more middle-of-the-road, but end up also being less innovative; it doesn’t challenge its audience one iota. Not one atom, crumb, grain, hint, infinitesimal, jot, mite, molecule, nucleus, ounce, particle, ray, scintilla, scrap, smidgen, speck, trace, or whit.
2) Leslie Nielsen’s portrayal of Drebin is less deadpan than it used to be. In fact, it seems as though he’s getting more googly-eyed as the series progresses (Can I coin livepan? has that been taken yet?). Personally, I loved him more as a moronic straight-man than as a goofy, slap-sticky doofus. For some, this may be a minor complaint, but I liked the subtlety; he was a sharp-shooter, and it made Drebin more deadly. Just like tex-mex takeout.
3) The casting isn’t as solid as it was on the TV show. In particular, OJ Simpson isn’t nearly as good as Peter Lupus was. I’m not being biased. It’s not because the guy’s an out-of-control criminal that I hate his performance (many performers are on-screen criminals: take a look at Keanu Reeves in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, for instance), it’s just that Lupus brought quiet confidence to the role, whereas Simpson… um.. didn’t.
What I find especially interesting, looking back two decades, is how the film took the p!$$ out of George Bush and the energy industry, taking shots at the Republicans and their allies. Considering that David Zucker later made the abhorrent ‘An American Carol‘, which was the polar opposite of this, it makes one wonder what happened in the 15 years since. And where his sense humour went, ’cause the latter was more offensive than funny.
Anyway, he was still on top of his game for ‘The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear’. It’s not nearly as clever a film as the Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams co-directed films were, but it still holds up nicely under that banner. It remains an important part of an influential genre of comedy film. And it has lots of hilarious moments throughout. It doesn’t stink, anyway.
Terence Baggett: “What’s that smell?”
Lt. Frank Drebin: “Oh, that would be me. I’ve been swimming in raw sewage. I love it!”
Date of viewing: April 8, 2013