Hilarious 'Hot Shots' soars to new lows in tasteless humor

July 31, 1991|By Stephen Wigler

What the Parthenon was to the architecture of classical pTC

Greece, what "War and Peace" was to the historical novel and what Beethoven's Ninth was to symphonic form, "Hot Shots" is to truly tasteless movies.

"Hot Shots," which is in part a parody of the hugely successful "Top Gun," is the sort of film in which Charlie Sheen (as the hot dog pilot) can tell Valeria Golino (his beautiful psychiatrist who is also an equestrienne, sculptress and a torch singer): "When I saw you rise high in the saddle, dig your heels into that stallion's sides and break his spirit, I never wanted to be a horse so much." And it is the sort of film in which Lloyd Bridges (as an admiral so stupid that he makes Lt. Frank Drebin of the "Naked Gun" movies seem like a rocket scientist) can tell the young flyers: "When I look out and see a bunch of fine young men like you, what I wouldn't give to be 20 years younger and a woman!"

"Hot Shots" will be compared to the recent "Naked Gun 2 1/2 ," and it is a just comparison. Co-writer/director Jim Abrahams was part of the production team for both "Naked Gun" films (as well as "Airplane" and "Ruthless People").

What "Hot Shots" doesn't have is "Naked Gun's" resonance and -- relatively speaking -- sustained coherence, its sense of a larger world that exists in some relation to its japes and tricks. "Hot Shots" exists in a world of movies -- not only of "Top Gun" but also of "Rain Man," "Tom Jones," "Marathon Man" and older films such as "Only Angels Have Wings," dating back to the 1930s.

But it employs the same scattergun approach to humor as "Naked Gun" and it is herein that "Hot Shots" is superior: Nearly every shot scores a bull's eye.

"Hot Shots' " slapstick is inspired -- whether in the physical humor of Bridges, who reveals an almost Buster Keaton-like level of inanity, or that of Jon Cryer, as a wall-eyed fighter pilot with eye glasses so thick that tiny tropical fish swim in them.

And the humor is at its best when it is truly tasteless, as it is in a love scene between Sheen and Golino that goes over the top (or is it under the bottom?) in its vulgarity. Abrahams uses food as a metaphor for sex, starting with an olive and Golino's navel and finishing with a cooking sequence on the actress's sizzling tummy that is so sophomoric that it makes a movie such as "Animal House" seem positively refined.

"Hot Shots" is clearly not for everyone, but it's still the funniest film of the summer.

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