Plot: Joe Friday (Dan Akyroyd) is a by the book detective who keeps things old school, but his longtime partner has retired and now, Joe has been given a new one that isn’t such an ideal fit. Streebek (Tom Hanks) is an accomplished officer with a wealth of undercover experience, but his laid back persona and disheveled appearance are an instant clash with Friday’s approach. But the two will need to work together and fast, as a series of strange crimes are unfolding and when a virgin is kidnapped, the partners have to kick things into high gear. This proves to be a little difficult however, given how wildly different the two detectives are in every possible way, though the passion for justice in both soon shines through. Can these unlikely partners somehow put aside there differences to rescue the virgin and learn the truth about a shadowy cult, or is there simply too much that divides them to work together?
Entertainment Value: Dragnet pays tribute to the classic television drama, but also takes the concept in an over the top comedic direction, an approach that would later become quite a trend in cinema. The movie isn’t afraid to veer into the surreal or ridiculous, while also touching on real world topics, such as the anti-porn push that was present around this time. But Dragnet is more effective as a silly comedy than a social soapbox, to say the least. There’s some effort to connect to the original shows, with Dan Aykroyd’s Joe being related to the original Friday, while Harry Morgan is also present, but there’s also an emphasis on an odd couple dynamic. The culture clash between Friday and Streebek is a prominent thread here and of course, the police work is there to fuel the comedy, rather than craft a tense drama. So no, Dragnet doesn’t have much of the texture from Jack Webb’s classic stories, but it does honor the shows in some small ways, while also having some fun with the concept. I think the strongest elements here are the cast and the dialogue, as the lines and over the top deliveries are what stand out, especially the often quotable dialogue. I wouldn’t rank Dragnet as a comedy classic, but it is a fun watch and is just offbeat enough to deliver some b movie vibes, so fans of off kilter comedies should have a few laughs here.
The movie has a colorful band of supporting players, but the real focus is on the odd couple dynamic, with Dan Akyroyd and Tom Hanks as the polar opposite partners who have to work together. Aykroyd nails the straight arrow role of Friday, capturing the essence of a rule following square, but he is also likable and of course, punches up even the driest of lines. This kind of role could easily come off as unlikable or taken to the wrong places, but Aykroyd rises to the challenge and especially shines in his shared scenes. His chemistry with Hanks is terrific, but the quick exchanges with supporting characters is Aykroyd’s source of best moments. His line delivery is razor sharp and packs a real bite, great stuff. Hanks is fine as well, with a good amount of charm and plenty of attitude. You can see his screen presence come through even in this early role, though of course, it doesn’t rank with his best work. Christopher Plummer brings a lot to the role of Rev. Whirley, with some fantastic lines that he makes the most of, while Dabney Coleman has a small, but memorable part also. The cast also includes Jack O’ Halloran, Harry Morgan, and Alexandera Paul.
The Disc: Shout Factory’s release looks fine, but isn’t going to bowl anyone over. The image looks clean and detail is passable, but there isn’t a refinement or abundance of fine detail present. Just a solid looking presentation with natural colors and smooth contrast. The extras includes audio comments from pop culture expert Russell Dyball, a new interview with Alexandra Paul, a promotional behind the scenes featurette, still photos, promos, and the film’s trailers.