There was a phase in the 1980s where comedies essentially came down to being as ridiculous as possible. Not to say there weren’t clever films but many, like “Airplane!” and “Young Frankenstein,” looked more to play off of what we had considered common themes. You take something that feels similar but have it go in a very different direction. If there is one movie that perfectly exemplifies this trend, it is “The Naked Gun.”
As I’ve come to expect in Leslie Nielsen, this movie is just plain ludicrous but keeps you laughing throughout. Detective Frank Drebin investigates an attempted murder on his friend and co-worker Nordberg (played by O.J. Simpson…) who spends most of the movie going through as much pain as possible. It becomes quite obvious who the villain is but, like I mentioned earlier, this type of comedy isn’t focused on an intriguing story.
Instead it aims to be ridiculous and silly which the film succeeds in. For example, you have Drebin taking every conversation at face value meaning he misses some of the deeper innuendos. You also see one bad move lead to another whether it’s after someone gets shot or accidentally sets something on fire. Although the gag can drag on at points, it is funny when you see just how destructive these jokes can be.
By far the best part of the film is towards the end when Drebin goes to a baseball game in an attempt to thwart an assassination. But he doesn’t go in as a normal fan. No the “hero” first pretends to be the National Anthem singer (comedy gold) before impersonating the home plate umpire who continually searches each player whenever he gets the chance. This sequence continues to escalate especially when Drebin does whatever he can to stop the 3rd out of an inning. While I wasn’t expecting much of a sports connection, this part was very memorable along with some of the famous broadcasters who make cameos.
Now if you’ve seen essentially any Leslie Nielsen film, you know what to expect. These silly movies may have childish-like humor but you can’t stop from laughing. It’s the way his characters ignore social cues that lead to the best moments. Also the way that any common movie trope is parodied keeps you on your toes…so to speak. Every few seconds there is another joke coming so you never grow bored.
While the reason I was assigned “The Naked Gun” was because of O.J. (who’s barely in it), the film actually reminds me of a much simpler time. While I love plenty of comedies today, this 80s genre was something special that now has kind of gone by the way side. Sure “Angie Tribeca” pays homage to the decade but sometimes we forget how much comedies have grown. By no means am I asking for some kind of realignment in the field. Instead I always appreciate a change of pace when things get too repetitive. That’s something you can always find in Frank Drebin.