A film review of ‘The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!’
By Jan Prchal, Senior Columnist
From detectives in film noir to sheriffs in westerns, law enforcement has played a substantial role in Hollywood productions. By the 1980s, police officers were established characters in a wide range of genres, reaching a pinnacle in 1988. That year, Die Hard set a high bar for police-driven action films, while The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! created the mould from which almost every subsequent gag and pun-filled American cop comedy has been made.
The opening sequence sets the tone for the exaggerated style that the film employs to its maximal tolerable potential. America’s enemies gather in Lebanon at a secret meeting to plot a terrorist attack on the United States, but an LAPD lieutenant Frank Drebin breaks up the meeting to wipe the wine stain off Gorbachev’s forehead and to reveal the Ayatollah’s orange mohawk beneath his turban. This unabashed cultural insensitivity continues throughout the film.
The opening credit sequence features an entertaining POV of a police siren causing mayhem with dangerous driving (including a baffling roller coaster sequence) that is entertaining, but also subtly reminds you that police abuse of power can be a real phenomenon.
The film spoofs white male chauvinism when Drebin comforts the wife of his hospitalized partner, telling her that her husband’s attempted murderer is probably a black male or a jealous gay lover. Institutional racism and homophobia, all parodied in the same sentence.
Furthermore, the movie features some of the better puns in film, many of which play out during Drebin’s interactions with his love interest, such as when she invites him in for a nightcap and he replies: “No thank you, I don’t wear them,” and leaves.
The film is not without its weak points, however. Drebin’s narration of plot elements, including his thoughts about his love interest, are not only lacking in comedic value, but poor as moviemaking techniques in general. Later, the extended baseball sequence in the third act delivers few laughs as it drags towards the finale. Given the short run time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, however, these flaws are more than bearable.
In short, The Naked Gun manages to be a consistently entertaining comedy that ranks amongst the best of the genre. Its brand of humour has been unsuccessfully cloned by scores of Hollywood movies too numerous and undeserving to name. And, since it is available on Netflix, you have few valid excuses not to watch it.