Wait! That’s no ordinary numbskull. That’s Lt. Frank Drebin, crashing the ceremonies to stop a terrorist plot that could mean curtains for him – or will a simple window shade be enough? Yes, back for a hilarious threepeat and a state-of-the-art advance in sequence numbering are the filmmakers you love, the returning stars you adore, the returning stars you adore, plus others getting Naked for the first time: Fred Ward, Anna Nicole Smith and more folks you’d happily give your seat to on a crowded bus.
The fun begins when…oops, we don’t want to give away the gags. No, you’ll just have to pay for them. You’ll be glad you did!
eyelights: Leslie Nielsen.
eyesores: Anna Nicole Smith. Priscilla Presley. O.J. Simpson.
Jane Spencer: “Now I know why Ed’s been calling every half hour. You’ve been back on a case, haven’t you?”
Frank Drebin: “No, no, I swear, it’s another woman.”
Jane Spencer: “In your wildest dreams.”
In this final installment of the highly popular Naked Gun series, we find Frank Drebin retired, now a homebody while his spouse Jane goes to work. He does the usual things, like cleaning, ironing, baking, and generally keeps busy. But happiness is just a collar away; without his badge, he feels impotent.
In fact, he and Jane have been trying to conceive and he’s been firing blanks. Their relationship is in trouble: they’re arguing and seeing a therapist to try to help work things out. But little do they know that all they need is a little visit from Frank’s old Police Squad pals Ed and Nordberg.
Unbeknownst to Jane, Frank will soon be pulled into an investigation to help his buddies out – just this once. At first. But what should have been a simple undercover job will end up being hours in a fertility clinic, as Frank fills jar after jar with seminal fluid in an attempt to buy enough time to check the clinic’s files.
From that point onward it’s a downward spiral: after Frank is incapable of a romantic evening with Jane, she clues in to the fact that he’s been on case, and promptly leaves him. She hits the road and he goes back to work: he gets himself incarcerated in order to befriend the convict that Police Squad is suspecting of terrorism.
‘The Naked Gun 33⅓’ is hardly an insult, as the title would suggest, but, truth be told, it’s the least stellar of the lot. In some ways it was nice to see the story develop differently, but on the other hand it took the teeth out of our character, who was always best when Nielsen could play him authoritative yet clueless.
Now that Drebin is retired, Nielsen plays a character that is veritably interchangeable with any other comic character (Imagine Inspector Clouseau on the beach, no longer with the police force. It doesn’t work). The character remains funny due to the situations he’s in, but his essence has been watered down considerably.
Thankfully, there are plenty of gags along the way (some better than others, obviously), a number of spoofs of other films (including ‘The Untouchables’ and ‘Thelma and Louise’), and quite a few pop culture references and celebrity cameos – which is hardly surprising given that the closing bit takes place at the Oscars.
So one doesn’t have the time to be bored. But, while the movie entertains, it’s not entirely successful in keeping things fresh and truly inspired. The tagline of the film was “Mostly All New Jokes”, and one does get the sense that much of it was recycled from elsewhere, including previous installments.
Two of the biggest set pieces, the opening and closing numbers, aren’t exactly as great in execution as they would have been on paper:
– The opening spoof of ‘The Untouchables’ somehow feels overdone now, even though I was amused when I first saw it. It’s still the best prologue of the series, but that’s because I found the ones in the last two films awkwardly tacked on, totally ill-suited to the characters and story.
– The closing bit at the Academy Awards had a lot of good moments, but it’s far too long to sustain the suspense and comedy at the same time. There are a lot of amusing cameos, and it totally feels like the perfect finale for the series (upping the ante from the California Angels ball game and the Press Club dinner), but it would have needed to have been bolstered with stronger gags for it to work.
Making matters worse, for some reason, the cast was as weak as it was diverse. In addition to Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy and O.J. Simpson, ’33⅓’ adds to the lot the “talents” of Fred Ward, Anna Nicole Smith and Kathleen Freeman. I don’t know much about Freeman, but I usually dislike Fred Ward’s unsubtle touch, and I can’t stand Anna Nicole Smith.
All of them were over the top, but Smith was particularly execrable, managing to ruin the few meager lines that she was fed. It’s not unusual for this series, so she didn’t stand out too much in that respect; she simply made the experience worse for me. As I watched her, I was seeing a talentless, pumped up, Reese Witherspoon. Heck, they even affect the same accent.
Thankfully, this was made up with the appearance of Raquel Welch, who wasn’t fantabulous, but who looked it and managed to squeeze a few comic moments out of her short time on screen. If only she had made a lot more excellent films in her career, I’m sure she would have come out as more than just a pretty face; she likely had more talent than she was ever given credit for.
Anyway, all this to say that ‘The Naked 33⅓’ has its moments. It’s not the funniest film out there, and it’s certainly not the best of the series, but it doesn’t take a big old dump on it either. It doesn’t go out with a bang, despite all the filmmakers’ efforts, but it’s a decent enough farewell to an iconic character who pratfalled onto our screens (big and small) for well over a decade.
Frank Drebin: “Well… We shot a lot of people together. It’s been great. But today I retire, so if I do any shooting now, it’ll have to be within the confines of my own home. Hopefully, an intruder and not an in-law, like at my bachelor party.”
Date of viewing: April 28, 2013