Naked Gun: I Love the 80's Edition

Some 21 years down the line, The Naked Gun, surprisingly, is still pretty damn funny.

The Naked Gun: I Love the 80's Series

Director: David Zucker
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Ricardo Montalban, O.J. Simpson, Priscilla Presley
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 1988
US DVD Release Date: 2009-02-03

During the opening sequence of The Naked Gun, world figures of terror have gathered in Beirut to plot an attack on America. Sitting at the table of the meeting room are the likes of Yasser Arafat, Idi Amin, Gorbachev, Momar Khadafi, and many more. Though the opening is (obviously) satirical, there are certain echoes of this supposed fearmongering can still be felt today, even though the film was made in 1988.

Of course, instead of using the scene to make some sort of political point, the whole thing instead devolves into a Three Stooges-styled fight sequence, as the terrorist's waiter proves to be none other than Police Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), who proceeds to render each one of these threats unconscious within a matter of seconds. It's a nice stage-setter for what's to follow: Drebin is as heroic as he is completely clueless, a stone-faced police investigator that just so happens to be trapped in one of the most delightfully madcap movie comedies since 1980's Airplane!.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that those two movies share the same writing/directing team of Jim Abrams, Jerry Zucker, and David Zucker. After the success of Airplane! (still one of the greatest comedies ever made no matter which way you slice it), the Zucker/Abrams trio developed a detective show for ABC called Police Squad!, starring Nielsen in the same role and featuring much of the same absurd humor that dotes virtually every one of the Zucker's releases. The show was cancelled after only four episodes (six were filmed), and it wasn't until several years later that the Zucker/Abrams crew revisited Lt. Drebin for a big-screen adventure, resulting in a gigantic (and somewhat surprising) box-office smash.

The plot is simple: Queen Elizabeth is visiting Los Angeles, and it's the unit known as Police Squad that's in charge of her security during her stay. Things get complicated when Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), an off-duty cop, is nearly murdered while investigating a drug smuggling ring. When Drebin and police Captain Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) investigate, they find that the drug ring Nordberg was investigating is connected to high-class businessman Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban, deftly sending himself up), the man who is charged with entertaining the Queen for the duration of her visit. Drebin suspects that Ludwig might be up to some wrongdoing, but before he can get to the bottom of things, Ludwig has dispatched his leggy personal assistant Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), to make sure Drebin stays out of his way.

Though some of the movie's jokes are carried over from the Police Squad show, The Naked Gun actually improves upon the cancelled series in many regards. Instead of trying to cram as many humorous moments as they can into a 30-minute episode, the Abrams/Zucker team have time to let the gags build up, the running time of a feature-length film allowing for the audience to laugh without missing a single punchline.

Though the Zucker's are never afraid to dip into base humor (as with the full-body condoms, for one), their specialty remains witty dialogue and sharp one-liners ("Jane, since I've met you, I've noticed things that I never knew were there before: birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights ..."). Of course, the Zucker's have found their muse with Nielsen, whose do-anything earnestness positively sells the movie, which is why some of his solo sequences are the film’s best (the scene where he breaks into Ludwig's office is one of his finest displays of physical comedy ever).

Now, of course, we have to wonder why this comedy classic is being re-released as part of this "I Love the 80's" series of DVDs. The bare-bones special features are carried over from previous DVD releases of the flick, the only thing of note being a feature-length commentary with David Zucker, producer Robert Weiss, and Peter Tilden. During it, the guys appear to make fun of their own film more than they do talk about the making of it ("Not many people know this, but this was based off of Shakespeare's The Tempest" they quip at one point), occasionally joking about the unusual events that have occurred since the film's initial release (Zucker at one point asks in jest "So is O.J. Simpson still acting?").

Aside from that, this "80's" edition includes a four-track "Music of the 80's" audio CD, featuring songs from Echo & the Bunnymen, Erasure, INXS, and a-ha. What this has to do with The Naked Gun is anyone's guess.

Still, it's hard to argue against a goofy comedy classic like this one. The studio can add on as many bells and whistles as it wants to these DVD releases, but some facts never change: some 21 years down the line, The Naked Gun is still pretty damn funny.





Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".


The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?


Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.


Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.


Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.


Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.


Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.


Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.