There have been many actors who have said that comedy just might be the hardest thing for an actor or actress to do. In order to be in a great comedy you have to have perfect timing, other wise the jokes fall flat and you’ll soon have an audience chucking tomatoes at the screen. Over the years the silver screen has been blessed with many comedic icons, but few are better known by all as Leslie Nielsen. Last night we learned that Leslie Nielsen had passed away and while blogs are going crazy writing about how much they loved his works like Airplane! and The Naked Gun, I thought I would go a different direction and pay tribute by watching another one of his films, Wrongfully Accused.
Now days when you hear the phrase, “it’s a spoof movie” you cringe thanks to the people who have brought you a long list of titles such as: Date Movie, Meet The Spartans, Vampires Suck, and Epic Movie. That of course is not an exhaustive list, but the point is the spoof genre of films has really hit the doldrums in recent years. In fact, some may even say that we haven’t seen a great mainstream spoof movie in the last 10 years. Wrongfully Accused, while certainly not one of Nielsen’s finest films is one of the last great spoof films before the genre went down like a sinking ship.
In Wrongfully Accused, Nielsen plays Ryan Harrison, a violinist who is accused of murder despite being framed by a one armed, one legged, one eyed man. Heavily borrowing from The Fugitive, this film plugs away for a short 80 minutes as Harrison tries to clear his name. With movie references from a plethora of Hollywood films from Star Wars, to North By Northwest, Casablanca and The Usual Suspects, Wrongfully Accused shows that no film is safe from being mocked.
The film is riddled with jokes and references that are just plain dumb. There is really no way around it when making a film of this type. A spoof film is about the slapstick humor that many times puts quantity first instead of quality. What resonates with some audiences fizzles with others. The key to this is simply great timing. If you let a joke carry on too long it just doesn’t work (and you end up with modern spoof flicks). This is where the genius of Nielsen and the people he surrounded himself with come in to play. They seem to have found the perfect balance and know when to cut a scene. Films like Wrongfully Accused move from plot point to point and scene to scene quickly not dwelling on dragging out every scene until every ounce of laughter has been sucked out of a sequence.
Looking back on Wrongfully Accused, which I hadn’t seen in years, I realized that it maybe wasn’t Leslie Nielsen’s shining moment in cinema. When you think about it, Nielsen has appeared in over 239 titles over his career. That’s a huge amount of screen time even if a large amount of them are bit parts and cameos. The great thing about the silver haired comedy legend is that he can find ways of taking a movie that should be completely terrible by all other standards and have you rolling with laughter in the theater aisles. But then again, Nielsen’s worst day in comedy still tops many other’s best days. It’s truly a sad day to see the end of a legendary career in film. Nielsen kept audiences in stitches of laughter for years and will live on in the films and hearts of comedy fans world wide. Whether you want to grab some popcorn and enjoy Wrongfully Accused, The Naked Gun: Files from the Police Squad, or Airplane! take a few moments and laugh at a Leslie Nielsen film. I’m sure that’s what he’d want us to be doing right now.