Plot: Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) has had some bad luck of late, but he won’t let that stand in the way of his never ending hunt for justice. His best friend was nearly killed by a drug syndicate and while evidence points to corruption, Frank knows his friend would never go rogue and launches his own investigation. He is led to the door of the powerful and rich Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban), who insists he isn’t involved in the drug trade and is too busy preparing for a visit from Queen Elizabeth, so he passes Frank off on his assistant, Jane (Priscilla Presley). She does what she can to assist Frank, while keeping her boss safe at the same time, though she and Frank can feel the gentle pull of romance. But when he learns that an assassination plot is in motion, he must track down the truth and figure out how to save Queen Elizabeth.
Entertainment Value: I don’t think movies can be much goofier than The Naked Gun, with a tone of total zaniness and the kind of rapid fire humor that throws every joke in the book onto the screen. But it is also one of the funniest movies of its kind, with a wild and often random sense of humor that might not always hit every joke, but hits enough to keep you laughing throughout. Of course, if you prefer a more subtle, cerebral humor, then you might be left cold here, as The Naked Gun aims broad and goes for broke with silliness. Just about the entire spectrum of potential jokes is mined here, from quirky dialogue, sight gags, prop comedy, physical pratfalls, and all manner of slapstick, over the top situations. This kind of humor is tough to get right, so that so much of The Naked Gun works so well is impressive. I also think that while it is steeped in 80s flavor, it doesn’t feel overly dated in most scenes, as the humor isn’t reliant on pop culture in most instances. I think that is a true testament to The Naked Gun, as this kind of kitchen sink approach doesn’t often hold up well.
Of course, one reason The Naked Gun works where similar films have crashed and burned is the lead, Leslie Nielsen. His performance here is deadpan and sincere, which makes even minor jokes land with more oomph. I love his lack of reaction to the things that happen around him, as it makes those moments so much more potent, especially the crazier things become. Nielson makes the most of the dialogue, with an excellent sense of timing and playing off his costars with ease. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role, as Nielsen just runs with the concept and never misses a beat, one of the best comedic efforts of this kind. I think the cast overall embraces the nuttiness and turns in dialed up performances, from O.J. Simpson’s slapstick injuries to George Kennedy’s overly serious presence, and Ricardo Montalban’s hilarious turn as our villain. There’s also a host of smaller roles and cameos that stand out, such as Reggie Jackson’s great part and a brief, but memorable appearance from Weird Al. This kind of humor isn’t for everyone, but those who appreciate manic, somewhat random and always over the top slapstick comedy, The Naked Gun is a classic.