Charlie Sheen, Lloyd Bridges, Cary Elwes, Valeria Golino and Jon Cryer co-star in director Jim Abrahams’ (Airplane, Naked Gun) truly hilarious spoof of Top Gun. Recruited to join a top-secret mission for the Air Force, a renegade pilot (Sheen) finds himself coping with an incompetent admiral (Bridges) and a carefully selected squadron of flyers who are either inept or half-blind. He also winds up in competition with the corps’ model of military perfection (Elwes) for the heart of the base’s sultry psychiatrist (Golino).
Hot Shots! 7.75
eyelights: Lloyd Bridges.
eyesores: Valeria Golino.
Admiral Benson: “Be seated! Ah… Many of you are wondering what’s wrong with my pants, well they started running short on materials right before they got to the knees so don’t give me any shit. Ah. I look out there on all you wonderful guys and I say to myself “What I wouldn’t give to be 20 years younger… and a woman”. You know, I’ve personally flown over 194 missions and I was shot down on every one. Come to think of it, I’ve never landed a plane in my life.”
You know, I had forgotten just how good ‘Hot Shots!’ was. Even now, as I write this, having just watched it, the feeling that stays with me is that it’s a lackluster comedy. And yet, as I watched it, I was surprised by just how good the script, the direction and the production are. On the whole, it’s a well-made comedy.
I think that the key reasons why I’m left with that impression are its setting, which is the U.S. Navy, and the performances, which mostly lack spark.
‘Hot Shots!’ is a parody of ‘Top Gun’, with a number of other references thrown in for good measure. While I really enjoyed ‘Top Gun’ at the time, I was thirteen and honestly didn’t know any better. When I saw it again a few years later, I realized that I had totally outgrown it; I found it simplistic and didn’t enjoy the military culture on display.
…so a film based on this doesn’t really pull me.
Thankfully, ‘Hot Shots!” is adept at poking fun of the genre in the same way that ‘Airplane!‘ was exacting in spoofing airplane disaster films. But I nonetheless feel a mild aversion to it, even though, in the moment, I was enjoying myself – I laughed (or at least snickered) quite a bit and found much of the humour rather clever, actually.
The cast, unfortunately, fails to inspire.
Topper Harley: “Mrs. Thompson, I know you must hate me right now but there’s something I want you to have. I’ve been putting a little away for the past ten years. It’s not much. 2500. I wish I could do more.”
Mrs. Mary ‘Dead Meat’ Thompson: “Why, Topper. That’s so sweet. Why, with the three million that I won on this Lucky Lotto ticket, I can take this 2500 and just blow it all on hats.”
Charlie Sheen, who I generally dislike now, I could stand in select few movies (i.e. the ‘Hot Shots!’ films, ‘The Rookie‘, ‘Wall Street‘ and ‘Young Guns‘). I used to find him hilarious in ‘Hot Shots!’ but I now realize that his comedic chops aren’t great: it’s the material which is funny – he simply allows it to flow. Almost anyone could have played the part of Topper.
Jim ‘Wash Out’ Pfaffenbach: “I’ve got walleye-vision.”
Pete ‘Dead Meat’ Thompson: “Isn’t there something that can be done?”
Jim ‘Wash Out’ Pfaffenbach: “Well, there’s a delicate corneal inversion procedure… a multi-opti-pupil-optomy. But, in order to keep from damaging the eye sockets, they’ve got to go in through the rectum. Ain’t no man going to take that route with me!”
Cary Elwes, whom I adored in and who was essential to ‘The Princess Bride‘, also doesn’t contribute that much to the film, providing us with a generic performance that almost anyone could have delivered. As does Jon Cryer, who would later reunite with Charlie Sheen in their hit series ‘Two and Half Men’. There is nothing to see here, move along, move along…
Topper Harley: “So… I guess you’ve been with a man before…”
Ramada Thompson: “I’m a virgin. I’m just not very good at it.”
And then there’s Valeria Golino. Quite frankly, I can’t stand her in ‘Hot Shots!’: her delivery is stilted and her eyes are all glazed over as though she were stuck in headlights. I don’t know why she was picked for this part – she’s that bad. To be fair, I suspect that the issue is that English isn’t her first language. Still, she may be a multi-award winner in Europe, but she sucks in this picture.
Admiral Benson: “Call down to the galley and order up some soup.”
Lt. Commander Block: “Yes, sir.”
Admiral Benson: “Ahhh… I love soup. At least I think I love soup. Blasted shell! It’s either soup or duck. Which one do you shoot?”
Lt. Commander Block: “Duck, sir.”
(Admiral Benson hits head on desk while ducking)
Lt. Commander Block: “Are you alright, sir?”
Admiral Benson: “Of course I’m alright! Why, what have you heard?”
The big highlight of the picture, is Lloyd Bridge’s turn as goofy and perennially confused Admiral Benson. While he plays a secondary character, he has plenty of screen time and steals the show completely – much in the way that Leslie Nielsen stole the show in ‘Airplane!’. He is simply on fire!!!! Not only does he get all the best bits and lines, but he delivers on each and every one.
All this to say that, filled with tons of gags, one-liners and references to well-known films such as ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’, ‘9½ Weeks’, ‘Rocky’, ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘Superman: The Movie’, ‘Dances with Wolves’ and many more, ‘Hot Shots!’ is the perfect film for fans of ‘Top Gun’ and other military films. It’s funny, irreverent and vibrant enough to warrant many viewings.
Even some two decades later, ‘Hot Shots!’ has yet to lose its cool.
Topper Harley: “You’ve got to be joking!”
Ramada Thompson: “Look, if I were joking, I would’ve said “what do you do with an elephant with three balls? You walk him and pitch to the rhino”.”
Date of viewing: June 26+27, 2013