You’ve seen the first two Naked Gun films and now you’re still wanting to know what I think about Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult? Why, that’s almost as silly as this series. You should already know what to expect. One could skip the plot section of the second film and just copy the rest of the thoughts and have almost no problem doing so. Suffice to say that I still liked Naked Gun 33 1/3, but, like #2, it can’t match the genius that was the first one.
Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is now a retired police officer. He’s married to Jane (Priscilla Presley), although their marriage isn’t going quite as well as they’d hope. She wants a baby, and he’s having trouble making that happen. When his old cop buddies (George Kennedy and O.J. Simpson) drop by and ask for his help with a case — something he promised to Jane would not happen — she leaves him because he accepts it. He winds up in prison, actually, as he has to get in deep with a gang leader named Rocco (Fred Ward) in order to prevent what might be a huge terrorist attack — at the Academy Awards, of all things.
The tagline for Naked Gun 33 1/3 reads “Mostly All New Jokes,” and that’s pretty much the case. There are some retreads from the previous film, but, for the most part, the jokes are fresh. I was weary after the second film about how much creativity would be left in the filmmakers’ minds, and it was really becoming apparent by the end of this film. The spark is finally extinguished near the finale, as if to say “We’ve got nothing left.”
However, we are still given an enjoyable film. The spoofs, puns and slapstick are all very much in play, and Leslie Nielsen is still as deadpan as possible regardless of the insanity going on around him. The opening scene, which makes fun of the step scene in The Untouchables — itself using Battleship Potemkin as a base — is possibly the funniest in the series. It makes sense to learn that it was planned for the first film, but was cut because of a lower budget.
The lack of creativity shows through mostly in the gags that continue going well past the point when they should have been moved on. This sometimes happened in the earlier film, too, but nowhere near as frequently as they do here. Most of the jokes are still funny, which makes this less of a problem, but when a joke doesn’t work and it keeps being forced upon us, it makes the film really drag. Naked Gun 33 1/3 only plays for 83 minutes, but at times it feels long, as if padding and filler was included just to bring it to feature length.
It’s possible that it’s simply a case of seeing the same three times being boring. Maybe if you were to watch the series in reverse order, you would find this one the best and the first one the worst. They’re all so similar, anyway, that it’s hard to really figure out what’s different about them. The type of humor has remained constant throughout, and perhaps that’s the main problem. They’re not evolving with the times; they just keep doing the same old thing.
The one difference here is that there are a lot more overt pop culture references. These were present in the earlier installments, but were much more subtle. The films would parody scenes from other movies, make fun of certain celebrities, and so on, but not in such a way so as to draw attention to itself. This time around, it’s so apparent whenever this is attempted. Jurassic Park gets two scenes like this. This is just another point toward thinking that the filmmakers finally ran out of inspiration, and had to look even lower down on the fruit branch.
There are even more cameos this time around. “Weird Al” Yankovic is the most memorable, if only because he also appeared in the previous two films. Setting the climax at the Academy Awards allows for a great deal of actors to be given cameos. James Earl Jones and Raquel Welch both get speaking roles, with Welch getting to play alongside Nielsen in one of the funnier moments of the film — a speech to announce one of the awards at the show.
It’s still fun to watch Leslie Nielsen play every scene as straight as possible, and some of the supporting work is fun, too. Nielsen is not, however, at the top of his game here. It’s apparent that he’s aware, too, that this film isn’t going to be as good as the others. He doesn’t put in the same work that he previously did. Maybe it was age finally catching up with him, or maybe it was even a decision by the director — he is playing a now-retired cop, after all — but he seemed less enthusiastic about the role.
Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult is just like the other two films, even if the creativity is starting to wear thin with this installment. It’s the same type of humor, largely the same cast of characters, and it’s still very funny. It does drag more frequently than it should, and the overt pop culture references and spoofs are a bit too easy, but I did still find a lot of the film enjoyable. It’s funny, and with a comedy, that’s the most important point to get right. It’s definitely still worth seeing.