'Naked Gun': Sure shooting

On movies

June 28, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

WE KNOW we are on sure comic ground when ''The Naked Gun 2 1/2 : The Smell of Fear'' is introduced as ''une film de David Zucker.''

The new comedy, a sequel to the 1988 ''Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad,'' is, if memory serves, about as funny as the original film. It hits far more than it misses. It is most of the physical business that misses. The movie could easily do without the physical humor, but then we'd have only a 60-minute film, and that wouldn't do. Thankfully, the wordplay is good.

''The Naked Gun 2 1/2 : The Smell of Fear'' takes Lt. Frank Drebi(Leslie Nielsen) to Washington, D.C., where he is being cited for having shot his 1,000th drug dealer.

Present at the affair are President and Mrs. Bush, who are impersonated by look-alike performers and are in quite a bit of the film.

This may be one of the first times that a president in office and his First Lady are impersonated for comedy purpose in a feature film. Mrs. Bush isn't likely to complain, but her husband may not be amused.

It is Mrs. Bush who is involved in most of the visual gags. In the beginning, the gags work. As the movie travels along, however, the gags falter, particularly when O.J. Simpson, as a detective, finds himself riding on a dolly as he is hooked to the undersides of a series of vehicles.

No big deal. There is enough verbal humor to keep the movie going, by turns hilarious and brilliant.

When Drebin, for instance, finds himself reunited with the girl he loved in the first film, he goes into rapturous description of the woman, and as he does, she moves her head, allowing her hair to flow as models do in television commercials.

That's funnier than it sounds in print, and so is much more of the film, in which detective and girlfriend make love (after a parody of the famous clay-molding scene from ''Ghost'') and as they do, are accompanied by the visual metaphors the movies used for this sort of union back when they couldn't be as graphic as they are today.

Back then, they had trains going into tunnels (''North by Northwest'') or fireworks (''To Catch a Thief'').

''The Naked Gun 2 1/2 '' goes a bit father than those films, however. Rockets, flowers and deli products are all used as metaphors for the sex act, and the sequence is immensely funny, maybe funny enough to justify the price of admission.

There is, however, much more to this film. We have a shot of Zsa Zsa Gabor making sport of her last brush with the law, Drebin visiting a crime lab where the most obvious evidence is ignored, and Drebin and Priscilla Presley (as Drebin's love) kidding the film ''Casablanca.''

The plot?

Well, yes, there is one. Drebin is in Washington at the same time the president announces that his new energy policy will be based on the recommendations of a world-recognized energy expert. The expert will suggest alternate means of energy, so of course, the coal, oil and nuclear power producers are opposed -- so opposed that they kidnap the expert.

Quentin Hapsburg, played by Robert Goulet, is the lead villain. He is an oil baron. The producers joked that they wanted Wayne Newton for the role but couldn't get him. Goulet goes along with all this. No, he doesn't sing, but he is game.

There is another high spot in the film, one worth mentioning. It has Presley singing ''The Way We Were'' in the shower as her would-be killer approaches her, knife drawn. If you want to know how this one works out, you'll have to see the film.

Nielsen, whose career has been rejuvenated by the ''Naked Gun'' movies, is great with the non sequitur. He is equally good with the visual material. It just isn't as good as he is.

George Kennedy reappears as Drebin's colleague, and you'll want to see his reaction when Drebin tells him that he envies him because he has been ''making love to the same woman for 28 years.''

''Naked Gun 2 1/2 : The Smell of Fear'' opens here today. See it and have a good time.


''Naked Gun 2 1/2 : The Smell of Fear'' *** Lt. Frank Drebin is in Washington when an energy expert is kidnapped by energy barons

CAST: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Robert Goulet

DIRECTOR: Jerry Zucker

RATING: PG-13 (language)

( RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

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