When I was much younger one of my favorite movies was Airplane!, despite having very little understanding of the highbrow jokes, I could appreciate the visual jokes and slapstick elements. Having not seen The Naked Gun prior to this recent viewing I can safely say that had I seen it as a kid I would have loved it equally. Leslie Nielsen is a comedic genius and David Zucker's post-modern approach to comedy is hilarious from the opening mocking of Middle Eastern dictators to the self-aware closing credits. The pacing of the film is perfect, with each joked delivered in its appropriate context. The cast is surprisingly stellar and includes veterans George Kennedy and Ricardo Montalban, in one of their less serious roles, as well as a variety of other notable celebrities, including a pre-white Bronco O.J. Simpson and Mr. October himself Reggie Jackson. It is comedic gold, and may be one of the best comedies to come out of the 1980's alongside Caddyshack.
The plot borrows heavily from the traditional cop thriller. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) discovers that his long time partner Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) has fell victim to a set up by a local mob boss and is now at the local hospital recovering from life threatening injuries. Like a good partner, Drebin vows to avenge his partner and take down his attackers. Unfortunately, Drebin is a klutz and cannot perform the most menial of tasks successfully, most notably driving his police car. As a result, Drebin burns down the house of the suspected mob boss, fails to successfully woo the love interest with inside information to the mob and even attacks the Queen of England in a muddled attempt to save her life. After a series of other mishaps Drebin is removed from the force, however, upon receiving info about another attempt on the Queen at a then California Angels game, he disguises himself as both an opera singer and head umpire to get close to the unknown attacker. In a hilarious, yet climatic scene, Drebin prevents a brainwashed Reggie Jackson from shooting the Queen, wins the heart of his love interest and even regains his job on the force. The film is a skeleton of a cop narrative covered with cheese, creme pies and all the other staples of comedic routines.
The film has its share of late eighties urban critique, and certainly berates the problems of bureaucracy in the world of crime fighting. However, I want to ignore reading into these commentaries and instead discuss the comedic elements of the film, particularly its use of slapstick comedy. I recently reviewed Buster Keaton's short film One Week and stated that very few films have delivered slapstick comedy in such an excellent and grandiose manner. The Naked Gun is an outstanding exception to this claim. Neilsen's understanding of visual humor is superb and every back flip, face plant and befuddled face hearkens back to the early slapstick masters. Furthermore, like his predecessors Nielsen relies very little on special effects and uses a stunt double only in the most extreme scenes. Combined with non-diagetic humor, narrative puns and 1980's political jokes The Naked Gun is as noted earlier an exemplary comedy that leaves much to be demanded of its predecessors.
This film is funny, no doubt about it. Anyone who claims comedy as their favorite genre should see this film immediately and if you have already done so I would suggest revisiting it, because it is impossible not to be in a good mood after doing so. I highly recommend obtaining a copy for your personal collection.