The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! 1988 ★★★★

An unlikely film adaptation of a 1982 sitcom axed after six episodes, THE NAKED GUN followed in the footsteps of trailblazing comedies AIRPLANE! and TOP SECRET!, also from the David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker triumvirate. After his memorable turn as AIRPLANE!'s deadpan doctor, this was the movie that cemented Leslie Nielsen as an unlikely figure of mirth—although it was shame his forte became spoofs; a genre that can flush itself down the toilet quicker than most. Half a decade later, Nielsen was headlining odious crud like DRACULA: DEAD & LOVING IT and SPY HARD, unable to escape such asinine projects until his death a year after working on STAN HELSING.

Critics have said THE NAKED GUN contains more jokes than the top five comedy movies of the '80s combined, but I don't think people include AIRPLANE! in that list—which, admittedly without the aid of a counter, feels twice as busy. But there's more plot in THE NAKED GUN, together with a broader canvas and subtleties in the performances. Nielsen plays Lt Frank Drebin, a dogged cop in the fictional Police Squad department; an oblivious klutz in the tradition of Inspector Clouseau, although one who actually gets to have sex with this franchise's version of Maria Gambrelli (Elvis's widow, Priscilla—before the surgery went too far). The very basic plot has Frank trying to prevent the assassination of Queen Elizabeth II during a state visit to L.A, masterminded by businessman Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban) and his TELEFON-inspired plot involving hypnotized baseball players.

There isn't really much mystery to THE NAKED GUN, as the villain is signposted early and the audience is always ten steps ahead of Drebin at any given moment. It's just a fun excuse for slapstick and sight gags, with Nielsen's drier-than-bone delivery doing half the work. And there are some fantastic jokes and visual sequences throughout; many of which are hilarious just to think about, over 20 years later, and endlessly quotable. I was worried time wouldn't have been kind to THE NAKED GUN, but beyond the fact the pre-titles sequence now features a rogue's gallery who are either irrelevant, decrepit, or dead, it hasn't dated too badly. Maybe when The Queen dies the storyline will inevitably feel older, but THE NAKED GUN is essentially about a funny-faced man in a position of authority, who's unaware of the mayhem he causes, and that will never go out of fashion.

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