“Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes.”
The Scoop: 1994 PG-13, directed by Peter Segal and starring Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley and Anna Nicole Smith
Tagline: Mostly All New Jokes
Justin’s review: Back in high school I used to frequent a movie theater where second-run flicks were shown for the low, low price of a dollar (today, we call those “iTunes specials”), and I could easily blow an entire Saturday’s worth of entertainment for $6, popcorn included. While the place eventually became a pit and closed down, it has special memories for me – it was here I saw Cliffhanger and The Crow and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (go ninja go) and Addams Family Values, reveling in the bombastic joy of early ’90s cinema. They even sold huge pickles on a stick at the concession stand. Life was good.
I loved the place for another reason: The whole place was poster-happy. Posters, posters everywhere, with plenty of beat-up cardboard standups as well. I don’t know why I recall the huge cardboard image of Leslie Neilsen straddling bullets, other than to think that they might’ve carried the title joke a little too far with this whole “33 1/3” nonsense, but whenever I see this movie, I think of that little theater.
Fast-forward a couple years to college, when my film class professor decided to talk about homages. He showed, in succession, the famous steps scene in Battleship Potemkin, the homage to that in The Untouchables, and the parody in Naked Gun 33 1/3. As parodies have a shelf life that’s only as long as the public consciousness of the movies they’re referencing, this might not be as hilarious or recognizable as it once was – but back in the day, it was brilliant.
Yet even with the second sequel status and the dated references, the third Naked Gun flick retains a surprising amount of belly laughs, clever sight gags, and disturbing scenes with O.J. Simpson. Before the whole “[GENERIC DESCRIPTOR] Movie” fad of the late ’90s and 2000s tanked into low brow gunk, Naked Gun and Hot Shots were riding out the excellent parody genre in style.
It helped greatly that they weren’t just trying to get laughs from an overabundance of fart jokes or bouncing breasts, but that the writers had a spark or two of comedy left in their magic typewriters. It helped even more that Nielsen and Charlie Sheen had the acting chops to pull this stuff off with a mostly-straight face. And can you ever go wrong with a movie where Weird Al Yankovic appears, is mugged and then is replaced by a bumbling detective to do hosting duties the Academy Awards? I think not.
Finally retired from Police Squad, the white-haired Frank Drebin (Nielsen) is settling down with wife Jane (Priscilla Presley) for a life of babies and bliss – that is, until his retirement anxiety sends him packing for one last undercover job that’ll take him to prison and then the Oscars (at least the former is full of honest crooks). A few parodies ensue (such as a clever Jurassic Park scene), but they don’t rely as heavily on them here as you might expect. Instead, funny visuals, slapsticky dialogue, and a hilarious voice-over narration by Drebin keep the chuckles coming.
You’d really think that the third time around would see a lot of diminished quality, but I’m happy to refute that in this case. Naked Gun 33 1/3 sparkles with cheeky wit more often than not, and that’s enough for me.
I just wish I’d bought that cardboard standup from the theater when I had the chance. And then sold it on eBay.
- The cover of the issue of Playboy that Papshmir is reading in his Learjet features Anna Nicole Smith, who plays Tanya Peters.
- The “rare” Canary Island Pine is actually one of the commonest trees in the world.
- After Rocco Dillon tells Tanya Peters to distract the official, the announcer says “Accepting the award for Mr. Bronkowitz . . . ” Samuel L. Bronkowitz was a fictitious producer in The Kentucky Fried Movie, which was the first film written by the creators of the Naked Gun series.
- On the day of shooting for the 1970s flashback shootout, George Kennedy had come down with pneumonia. He was so ill that he couldn’t even walk. To make sure the scene was shot, the director had Kennedy sit on a bar stool for his entire part in the scene. Notice when Frank meets Ed, Ed never gets up from his stool. When Ed is supposed to leave, leaving Frank alone with Tanya, Kennedy simply just leaned back out of the shot to create the illusion of his character getting up and leaving.
- Will Ferrell is the man chasing his lawnmower in the first scene.
- This was O.J. Simpson’s final film role. He won a Golden Raspberry for Worst Supporting Actor for the film, presumably for his role in his murder trial, which started the following year.
- The flashback scene from Frank and Jane’s wedding was the real ending for The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. They didn’t use it on that movie, but inserted the scene on this one. At the same time, the scene featuring Frank, Jane and Frank Jr. getting to their house was the original ending for this movie, but since the makers thought that the boy that played Frank Jr. didn’t look funny enough, they decided to go with the hospital ending and used this scene in the middle of the movie.
- The name for this movie comes from long-playing (LP) vinyl records. LPs play at a speed of 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. The original title of the movie was “Naked Gun 33 1/3: Just For the Record”, but the subtitle was changed to “The Final Insult” due to fear that not all audiences would get the joke.
- This film also produced one of my favorite parody posters of all time
Rocko Dillon: I’ve been watching you McGurke. You handle yourself really good.
Frank Drebin: Really well.
Rocko Dillon: Whatever.
Jane Spencer: Now I know why Ed’s been calling every half hour. You’ve been back on a case, haven’t you?
Frank Drebin: No, no, I swear, it’s another woman.
Jane Spencer: In your wildest dreams.
Frank Drebin: Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes.
Frank Drebin: Like a blind man at an orgy, I was going to have to feel my way through.
Tanya Peters: You’re all man. I like that in my men.
Frank Drebin: You’re coming on to me big time, sister. You’re preying on me like a kitten with a fresh mouse. And we got a problem.
Tanya Peters: You’re Jewish?
Frank Drebin: No. You’re Rocko’s girl, and in my book that chapter’s called “look but don’t touch.”
Tanya Peters: I could have two lovers.
Frank Drebin: Kinky. But I like my sex the way I play basketball, one on one with as little dribbling as possible.
Ed Hocken: You might end up dead!
Frank Drebin: “You might end up dead” is my middle name.
Ed Hocken: What about Jane?
Frank Drebin: I don’t know her middle name.
Olympia Dukakis: What’s that?
James Earl Jones: It looks like Phil Donahue throwing up into a tuba.
Frank Drebin: Cheer up, Ed. This is not goodbye. It’s just I won’t ever see you again.
Frank Drebin: Uh Raquel, so many go to bed hungry in this nation, yet cat food is full of tuna! I can’t help but think each time I go to the zoo and see those porpoises, crammed into those tiny tanks, what a waste that is. Butcher half of them now! That’s hundreds of pounds of dolphin meat that can be fed to our cats, freeing up that tuna for our nation’s hungry.
[few people clap]
Raquel Welch: And the winner is…
Frank Drebin: Uh, so many are cold, shivering in the night, so I say, butcher those cats, skin them! Use their fur to keep hundreds warm!
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