'Loaded Weapon 1' shoots mostly blanks, but there are some yuks

February 05, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

There are 8 million jokes in "National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1," and at least one of them is funny.

The movie is an all-over-the-landscape parody of the modern cop thriller -- chiefly the "Lethal Weapon" series, but also "Silence of the Lambs," "Die Hard" and others of the ilk -- which lays on so many yuks so fast you're almost always three or four jokes behind.

Here's where I laughed: when, in the background and out of focus, some cops did the limbo under that yellow evidence tape that is a crime-scene cliche.

Derived in technique from the infinitely superior series of movies by Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker ("Airplane," "Naked Gun," "Naked Gun 2 1/2 : The Smell of Fear"), "Loaded Weapon" primarily falls apart at the performance level. Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson play vague clones of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, but neither of them is a sophisticated enough impressionist to get much comic mileage out of the impersonation. Impersonation has to be based on more than skin color; they don't really go with the roles in the way the cast of "Saturday Night Live" does -- that is, reduce it to its recognizeable purity, then twist it savagely for comic effect. Estevez and Jackson are just there.

On top of which is the distressing truth that the "Lethal Weapon" series is already dangerously close to parody; that they take it that little bit more into surrealism doesn't yield nearly the level of pleasure.

And the movie is too scattershot. It tries everything, then tries it again. At one point, it heads into the basement to let F. Murray Abrahams have a go at imitating Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs," to no particular point, comic or narrative.

But . . . still, it does have a few laughs. The most consistent $$ source of humor isn't performance but form: I liked it when two hTC guards in German uniforms start chattering in German and in subtitles one blurts out a chunk of story exposition, and the other says, "It's too late for a new plot point." It's also funny when Estevez actually trips over a subtitle.

C7 But other than that, there's not a lot to laugh at.

"National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1"

Starring Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson.

Directed by Gene Quintano.

Released by New Line.

Rated PG-13.

... **

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