Today! Because 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 –
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Directed by David Zucker (x3)
Starring Leslie Nielsen (x2), Priscilla Presley (x2), George Kennedy (x2), O.J. Simpson (x2), Ricardo Montalban, Nancy Marchand, Susan Beaubian, Raye Birk, Weird Al Yankovic (x2), Reggie Jackson, Lawrence Tierney (x2), Mark Holton (x2), John Houseman (x3), Ed Williams (x2)
I didn’t start this list with the intention of it devolving into a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker fan page, but man, it sure feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? Between #276 Hot Shots!, #355 Top Secret!, #218 The Kentucky Fried Movie, #398 Ghost, and #314 The Naked Gun 2 1/2, they are occupying a bunch of slots here in the first half of the list. Is it just me? Do these movie still hold up? They don’t really make this kind of comedy much any more, and the ones they do roll out are super low budget nonsense, in the Not Another… vein. Does this avalanche of sight gags and puns and boobs not play with the modern audience?
Well, worry not – while there’s obviously at least one more ZAZ film on this list, it is not The Naked Gun 33 1/3, even though that movie is also fine. This first Naked Gun is the best in the group, and managed to improve on the Police Squad! TV show by having that big screen budget and solid movie star talent, like Oscar winner George Kennedy and Khan himself Ricardo Montalban. To help you differentiate (because as I’ve said, series films from this era tend to cross me up), the third Naked Gun ended at the Oscars, the second was the press club dinner, and the first is the Queen’s attendance of the Angels baseball game. Fred Ward, Robert Goulet, Ricardo Montalban. I need to do this for my own edification, too, so basically similar are these films.
The box office returns diminished a bit by 33 1/3 in ’94, but there were half-formed plans for a fourth movie even then. Why not? These movies didn’t really run out of steam, and Leslie Nielsen would spend the rest of his life making goofy comedies. No, it was all undone by the Juice. 33 1/3 was released in March of 1994, and was only out of theaters a month when the murders took place, swallowing up the media world for the next year and a half (and to some degree, forever after). Acquitted or not, they couldn’t just slap Nordberg back in a zany series of crime-strewn events and pretend everything was okay. Goddammit, O.J.! Who knows how many further adventures of Police Squad we were deprived of by your murdering ass!
The first Naked Gun has landed on numerous all-time comedies polls and lists, but in its day it received basically nothing. Boo! Best Called Third Strike, maybe? Best One-Line Mark Holton Performance? Plenty of options! The film’s MVP, though, despite me being as far from a Yankees fan as humanly possible, is absolutely Reggie Jackson:
Nielsen, Kennedy, Presley, Simpson, Ed Williams, and Weird Al Yankovic all join the Two-Timers thanks to their appearances in Naked Gun 2 1/2, while the great Mark Holton (#371 Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) and Lawrence Tierney (#252 Reservoir Dogs) were not invited back for sequels. But in addition to David Zucker becoming the seventh directing Three-Timer, we also advance Oscar winner John Houseman to the acting Threes, following his roles in #273 The Cheap Detective and #227 Scrooged. Spotlight!