Monday, April 19, 2010

Movie Log: Airplane II: The Sequel, Top Secret!, & The Naked Gun 2 1/2

2009 was the year of James Bond for me; I watched nearly all of the films with my two sons before diving into the Fleming novels (and then also watching some non-Bond adventure movies with the boys as well). 2010 seems to be turning into the Year of the Spoof -- we saw Spaceballs and the Sellers Pink Panther movies in the fall (and Galaxy Quest, counts too, I guess) as a warm-up, and now have seen both Airplane movies, the first two Naked Guns, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Top Secret! over the past month or so, mostly on Saturday afternoons.

Airplane 2 is a movie I've seen pieces of so many times -- and which is so obviously a retread of the first movie, which I've also seem pieces of so many times -- that it's difficult to think of it as an actual movie with a plot rather than as a collection of funny lines and ideas. (On the other hand, the filmmakers clearly didn't think of Airplane 2 as much more than a loose framework for a series of funny lines and ideas, so I'm not convinced that I should spend much time doing the work they didn't.) It generally considered to be a pale copy of the first movie, but I found it consistently funny this time, crammed full of gags, most of which still hit. I've probably seen it more times than the first one, so -- heretical thought! -- I probably prefer it to the first one, since I know it better.

Top Secret! was the movie Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker made instead of Airplane 2, which isn't necessarily a good or bad move, since both movies were underperformers at the box office, and Top Secret! is minor and not a crammed with jokes as the usual ZAZ product. (OK, so the "Police Squad!" TV show came earlier, and in the same timeframe as Airplane 2 -- but that was a failure as well, and Top Secret! was their next movie.) It's a parody of Elvis Presley movies, which was a very odd choice for the early '80s -- not only had Elvis been dead for several years, his movie career ended about fifteen years before. Val Kilmer, looking very young and game, makes what he can of the gags, but the musical numbers -- authentically Elvissey as they are, and even though they're all amusing -- steal a lot of the movie's momentum. Top Secret! is also set in a world where the French Resistance is still active, for no obvious reason -- and that never becomes as funny as it should be. It has some laughs, sure, but it's pretty much as forgettable and minor as I'd remembered it.

And then we got to The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear this week; it's the same kind of thing as the first Naked Gun movie, only more so. ZAZ was becoming heavily formulaic by this point, and Leslie Nielsen had moved out of his original deadpan to mug horribly for the camera and do all manner of silly physical comedy. (When ZAZ movies work, they do so because they're filled with actors playing their parts straight and don't seem to realize how silly it all is.) The sex jokes also hit a new high here, which makes it possibly unsuitable for some audiences. (My younger son kept asking me why things were funny, and my older son wasn't sure whether to laugh or not -- it's not the best choice to watch with tweens.)
Listening to: Social Distortion - Story Of My Life (Live)
via FoxyTunes

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