Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 23 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Off-Color Humor
Directed by: Peter Segal
Written by: Pat Proft, David Zucker & Robert LoCash
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Fred Ward, Anna Nicole Smith, Kathleen Freeman & Ellen Freeman
The first NAKED GUN is a bona-fide comedic classic. As financially successful as it wound up, I don’t think many would predict that the adventures of Frank Drebin would eventually turn into a trilogy of quality spoof films. The sequel suffered from not quite living up to the stellar fast-paced jokes of the original, but was still entertaining nonetheless. The lack of fast-paced laughs could be partially blamed on the second film reducing the number of writers and focusing too much on a straight-forward series of skit-like scenes. NAKED GUN 33 1/3 takes the final chapter of the inept Frank Drebin back to more of the rapid fire laughs of the first film. Directed by someone other than David Zucker (who only co-wrote this one), penned by three writers, and clocking in at a mere 82-minute running time, this is a hysterical spoof that takes things in different directions that work wonders in the movie’s favor.
Enjoying his retirement and married life with Jane, Frank Drebin has become a stay-at-home husband. When a terrorist threatens to ignite a bomb, Frank is called back into undercover duty. He infiltrates a prison to befriend the bomb-making psycho and ultimately must put a stop to the madman’s plan. Not everything works in Frank’s favor. Jane is fed up with him choosing to fight crime over her and this quickly becomes the most dangerous mission Lt. Drebin has embarked on.
The first thing one might notice about NAKED GUN 3 is how ridiculous everything is up front. Not that the previous two entires didn’t have their silly plots and dumb characters, but this final chapter is all around stupid in every single aspect. The film fully embraces this and provides a barrage of nearly non-stop jokes. This is the second-best NAKED GUN entry (not a bad thing considering all three films are solid). Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, and O.J. Simpson (sporting the least time out of all three films and also the least amount of pain inflicted on him) all slip right back into their characters as if not much time had passed between the first entries. It’s pretty remarkable how well they blend into their parts consistently through all three films, each making their individual character charming in unique ways. As far as the villains (there is a trio of baddies here) go, they’re arguably even more ridiculous than the inept Police Squad officer. While I liked the dead-faced, seriously evil bad guys from the first two films, these three are enjoyable to watch in a different kind of way. Also, this film also features the weakest villain death of the three ludicrous demises in the trilogy. It’s also odd that the villains are so over-the-top and yet suffer the most toned-down demise in the NAKED GUN universe.
For a series flaunting humor that seems so timeless (even if it purposely pushes the envelope for pure shock value), NAKED GUN 3 also has the biggest amount of pop culture references in the series. It’s the only spoof I’ve ever seen that found a way to go from a GREAT ESCAPE joke to a BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD reference in less than 20 minutes. The finale at an Academy Awards ceremony also lends plenty of opportunities to spoof major films out at the time this was released (e.g. JURASSIC PARK, THE CRYING GAME, etc.), though the jokes about which general kinds of films win Oscars (usually involving a tragedy set against the backdrop of an already tragic period in history) provides the biggest laughs in the entire film. Also hysterical is the extended time featuring Frank in prison. The film also pushes the shock laughs even further in some cases here. There are a couple of moments that had me thinking this film might have received an R rating if it were submitted to the MPAA today (not that I feel they’re a reliable organization to begin with).
Kicking off with the best opening sequence this series has and showcasing the quick-witted nature that made the original film great, NAKED GUN 3 is the second best film in the series. It’s especially an accomplishment considering this was the third entry is an over-the-top goofball spoof series. How many of those made it to a third film and still remained highly enjoyable? It’s true that NAKED GUN 3 may be a tad overloaded with pop culture references, but it also sports many things that made the first two films so entertaining to begin with. I remembered NAKED GUN 3 for being the lesser of the trilogy, but I was proved wrong because this is a hugely enjoyable blast. It may not be the best, but its a fitting conclusion to a trilogy about a goofball cop, his equally inept partners, a constant damsel in distress, many villains, and a whole lot of laughs.