The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Every scene has many gags, both visual and verbal, while many also have a lot of slapstick. You think you know how a certain moment is going to play out only to realize that you have no idea. How the filmmakers managed to jam this much creativity into a single film is astounding. It contains more laughs per minute than anything else I can think of, and most of those are of the laugh-out-loud variety.
The basic idea here is that we have a cop, Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), who is assigned to a case. His partner, Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), is left for dead, and he is tasked with finding out who is behind this. His instincts take him to the very rich Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban), and his assistant, Jane (Priscilla Presley), who serves as the love interest. It’s obvious from the get-go that Vincent isn’t as innocent as he appears, but, of course, this is a comedy, so Frank isn’t allowed to figure this out quite so early.
The film moves by at a breakneck pace. Where other comedies are content to sit around after a big hitter, The Naked Gun continues to pour on the humor. Sometimes, comedies are content with a joke every few minutes, whereas this is a film where each scene has the potential to make you laugh. The failed jokes, few as they are, aren’t dwelt upon; the film moves on, ensuring that, even if it failed at this point, it’ll get another chance in a few seconds. Misfires rarely happen with this movie, though; I can’t think of a point when I wasn’t in stitches.
Much of the humor comes from the way Leslie Nielsen acts in the film. He’s deadpan despite anything that’s going on around him. His later career was largely based around this type of comedy, and there’s a reason for it: it’s really, really funny. The way he reacts, or doesn’t react, to any given situation is enjoyable. And seeing some of the stuff that goes on around him makes it even better. There are tons of jokes, puns, genre subversions, and so on, too, but Nielsen is the icing on the cake.
His character comes from a failed television series titled “Police Squad!” whose goal was to spoof cop movies and shows. The film has the same goal, but without having to stretch its jokes out across episodes, it can bundle them tightly together and keep you laughing for the entirety of its running time. From the title credits — in which a police car goes places a police car shouldn’t go — to the end credits, this is one extremely humorous ride, one that you’ll want to take again and again.
I will ruin no more jokes, except to say that the plot eventually boils down to a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, where the Queen of England is in attendance and is the planned victim of a murder. Baseball is my favorite sport, and the way the film makes fun of it was hilarious. Really, the way it makes fun of everything is the same. Sure, most of its targets are easy, and its humor is juvenile at best, but the imagination and creativity put into it easily overcomes the somewhat low-brow approach it takes.
Don’t misunderstand: The Naked Gun is an incredibly silly film. But it’s so affectionate toward everything that it’s making fun of that it’s so hard to care. I suppose if you’re a super serious person, and you need your comedy to be layered with a thick layer of think-sauce (which is now a thing), you might not like this movie. I love it. I love everything about it. It might not all make sense, but that doesn’t matter to me. A comedy needs to do one thing: make me laugh. It did that with such frequency that any flaw doesn’t matter to me.
There are a few cameos scattered throughout. Sadly, Queen Elizabeth II didn’t actually take part, although Jeannette Charles does an admirable job playing her. “Weird Al” Yankovic and Reggie Jackson both make appearances, the latter of whom actually plays a pretty major role. There are even some cameos made by some non-players; real umpires and broadcasters are given speaking roles within the film. And, yes, I adored every moment from all of them.
Here is the point where I tell you the problems with The Naked Gun. There are a couple of jokes that go on for too long — even though they work, there’s a bit too much self-indulgence going on. It’s rare, but this does happen. Some of the actors aren’t very good, although they’re mostly from bit roles and you can’t help but think that this was intentional. Some of the gags are a bit too crude, and some aren’t all that funny, but these are few and far between.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is a hilarious movie and if you don’t absolutely adore it I’m not sure if we can be friends anymore. Almost every joke works, and even if it doesn’t, for the most part, the film will move on soon enough for it to not be bothersome. It mixes spoof, satire, slapstick and gags together for a fantastic experience, juvenile and silly as it may be. I don’t know how someone can dislike The Naked Gun. Leslie Nielsen, deadpan as he is, tops off an incredible movie. This is one of my favorite comedies of all time.