The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear ★★★

I recall THE NAKED GUN sequel being a lesser film than the original, but still funny overall. Now with two decades distance from first watching THE NAKED GUN 2½: THE SMELL OF FEAR as a teenager, I was surprised by just how much weaker it is.

The plot this time is somehow even more simplistic than before, with wheelchair-bound scientist Dr Meinheimer (Richard Griffiths) due to give an important speech on America's energy policy, only to be replaced by an imposter employed to promote nasty fossil fuels. Lt Frank Drebin's (Leslie Nielsen) on the case, reacquainted with ex-girlfriend Jane (Priscilla Presley) along the way, facing off against oil baron Quentin Hapsburg (Robert Goulet), who'll benefit when his Meinheimer doppelanger tells President Bush (John Roarke) to shun green energy.

Almost everything about NAKED GUN is inferior to the fantastic original, although the drop in quality isn't too bad for the most part. It helps that there are still some very funny moments and a handful of inspired sequences and gags, but the story is much less interesting; while the rekindled romance between Frank and Jane just doesn't have much appeal, and OJ Simpson's role is expanded. This is a movie that has dropped in my estimation, which was worrying to realise, and particularly suffers from a climax that's too small-scale—especially compared to the fun baseball game that ended THE NAKED GUN in a rousing manner. This sequel ends and you're almost surprised the credits are rolling.

Taken as a stream of hit-and-miss jokes, more gags hit their targets than not, and NAKED GUN 2½ is unquestionably superior to every contemporary spoof you care to mention. It's just noticeable how the first movie's plot and characters felt more substantial and rewarding. THE NAKED GUN 2½ feels like a frail skeleton on which to hang all the jokes they didn't have time for the first time around.