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The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!(1988)
Incompetent cop Frank Drebin has to foil an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II.
For more about The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! and the The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray release, see the The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 29, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, O.J. Simpson, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy, 'Weird Al' Yankovic
Director: David Zucker
» See full cast & crew
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 29, 2011
Protecting the Queen's safety is a task that is gladly accepted by Police Squad. No matter how silly the idea of having a queen might be to us, as Americans, we must be gracious and considerate hosts.
One can only wonder if the real Queen of England has ever seen The Naked Gun and whether she has determined for herself just how silly the idea of an outrageous bumbling police detective Comedy must be. But being the gracious Queen that she undoubtedly is, there's no question she was at least considerate enough to watch the movie in its entirety and gladly accept it as one of the 1980's finest screwball Comedies, a movie in which she should be proud that her likeness was featured so prominently, and as an integral part of the plot at that. Director David Zucker's Comedy gem lets it all hang out from beginning to end; there's not a dull moment, not a line of dialogue wasted, not an opportunity for an outrageous gag to be made part of the movie missed. Best of all, the film's humor plays so naturally with the surrounding plot that it all falls into perfect harmony. The merging of story and humor is executed to a refined level of excellence that's rarely realized in the genre. Infinitely watchable and uproariously funny each and every time, The Naked Gun is a true gem and one of the great Comedies of that genre's last great era.
A Los Angeles cop named Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) is gunned down while tracking down a dangerous group of heroin dealers. He lives through the ordeal -- but he has only a 50/50 chance of survival, and only a 10% chance of that -- and is able to pass on just the bare minimum of information to his longtime friend and partner, Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), who begins his own investigation into Nordberg's shooting and the drug deal surrounding it. Drebin is led to a man named Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban) who feigns ignorance of the shooting but seems highly suspicious to the ever-vigilant Drebin. Frank uses his resources to further infiltrate Ludwig's inner-circle and begins a relationship with his lovely secretary, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley). As Drebin works the case, he comes to believe that there may be something even more sinister than a major drug deal going down. With the Queen of England set to visit the city and the police force on high alert, Drebin must work quickly if he's to unravel the details of the case and save the Queen from an assassination attempt.
The Naked Gun falls into the category of insane Comedy framed around a real, tangible plot line. It's not as involved as would be a straight Action film or Drama, but the humor is built around a story rather than a wedged-in, ultra-linear, almost throwaway plot like that of Airplane! where the movie is obviously concerned first, and almost primarily, with its verbal and physical gags. The style of The Naked Gun is the more satisfying of the two, even if Airplane! is a rare exception to the rule. Still, it's not as if there's some earth-shattering, ultra-memorable plot to The Naked Gun. "Dimwit cop must prevent the murder of the visiting Queen of England" isn't exactly up there with the most engaging and thought-provoking stories of film history, but it's a sound little frame in which the filmmakers have filled the periphery with all sorts of laughs that all add up to a satisfying good time at the movies.
The key to the movie, though, is the execution of the humor. Leslie Nielsen absolutely nails his part with a smoothness and precision that even the best Comedians don't often achieve. He's a master of deadpan humor, and the style makes the clueless and bumbling Frank Drebin all the more charming and comedically effective. Nielsen's performance is effortlessly fantastic, whether speaking bluntly to Nordberg's wife about his chances at survival and return to the force ("unless he's a drooling vegetable, but I think that's only common sense") or absolutely butchering the national anthem before an Angels-Mariners ballgame that has him disguised as a famous Opera star as a means of accessing the field of play. Of course there's a fair bit of over-the-top zaniness to the movie, too, but its true means of achieving success comes from the little character moments that are patently absurd but still actually fit within the picture's broader context. Key secondary performances are excellent, too, but become lost under Nielsen's brilliance. Only George Kennedy seems capable of really keeping up with Nielsen, though the film does enjoy fine efforts from Ricardo Montalban, Priscilla Presley, and O.J. Simpson, the latter of whom, much to many viewer's delight, is basically a knock around rag doll who takes the brunt of the physical punishment the film has to dole out.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Naked Gun debuts on Blu-ray with a solid and never truly problematic 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Paramount's image retains a natural grain structure that serves to both provide the image with a handsome, if not slightly dated, film-like texture, while also reinforcing all of the natural detailing present throughout the film. Whether facial textures or odds and ends around the frame and in various locations -- the hospital, Ludwig's office, or the ballpark -- The Naked Gun never wants for better detailing. Colors, too, are well balanced and vibrant when necessary. The ballgame sequence is a true champion, yielding the Mariners' blue and gray jerseys and the Angels' red and white uniforms with handsome clarity and accuracy. Blacks are adequate, sprinkled with a little noise and occasionally looking a hair washed out, but crush is never a real issue. There's very little in the way of dirt and scratches. Banding is a non-issue and blockiness is rare, but there is an odd and faint overlaying checkerboard pattern hovering over the image in the early scene featuring Frank landing on the same plane carrying Weird Al. This is a fine all-around transfer for an aging catalogue title.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Naked Gun delivers a quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The opening title music is incredibly rich and enjoys both excellent clarity and precision spacing across the front. Music is sound throughout, including the Something Good tune heard during the love montage. A few heavier effects lack clarity -- the landing of the plane near the beginning is one such example -- but general sound elements enjoy a fair presentation, whether gunshots or the general ambience at the ballgame. There's not much in the way of pronounced surround activity, but the back channels do manage to carry a little weight. However, there's never a real sense of total immersion into the film, which isn't all that unexpected given the film's age. Dialogue is center-based and crisp, and it does well to gently maneuver around the soundstage when necessary, for instance the echoing as heard when characters speak through a microphone or, later, over the ballpark's public address system. This isn't a powerhouse track or even one that's particularly memorable, but longtime fans will be tickled by the boost in general clarity and spaciousness the lossless track yields.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Naked Gun features only two extras, the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:24) and a mischievous and highly entertaining group commentary, recycled from the DVD era, by Director David Zucker, Producer Robert Weiss, and Peter Tilden. In between the tomfoolery (and quite a few jabs at O.J.), there's a good bit of real behind-the-scenes information to be heard, though most of it does remain framed within a comical current.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Naked Gun delivers endless laughs that are derived from a myriad of sources. Deadpan jokes, exaggerated physical gags, O.J. Simpson getting knocked around real good, and one of the most infectiously fun montage sequences ever created all add up to a Comedy classic that's one of the last of the truly great Comedies of the era that ended with the death of John Candy a few years later. Leslie Nielsen delivers what is probably the best comedic performance of his career; his effort is the film's true highlight and the one element that truly makes the movie work so well. Paramount's Blu-ray release of The Naked Gun doesn't offer many extras, but that's offset by a strong A/V presentation. Recommended.
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