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Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear
Director: David Zucker
Screenplay: David Zucker & Pat Proft
Stars: Leslie Nielsen (Lt. Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), George Kennedy (Capt. Ed Hocken), O.J. Simpson (Nordberg), Robert Goulet (Quentin Hapsburg), Richard Griffiths (Dr. Mainheimer/Earl Hacker), Jacqueline Brooke (Commissioner Brumford), Anthony James (Hector Savage)
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Year of Release: 1991
Country: USA
Naked Gun 2 1/2 Poster

Any director will tell you that how a character is first introduced in a movie is of the utmost importance. So, it says a lot that Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), the irrepressibly inane police detective from "The Naked Gun," is introduced in the sequel walking out of the men's room, causing First Lady Barbara Bush to slam face-first into the door. That's the Drebin we know and love: a walking disaster who is utterly and completely unaware of the destruction he constantly causes.

While not as uproariously funny as the first entry in the series, "Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" (the sarcastic advertising campaign billed it as "the sequel so big they needed another half") has a sharper edge of social satire. Taking place in 1991 at the tail end of the Reagan/Bush years of conservative government, big military spending, and a lack of emphasis on environmental concerns, "Naked Gun 2 1/2" sets its sights on big oil companies, coal producers, and nuclear power plants that will do anything to keep the government from embracing a plan of renewable energy.

The bad guy this time around is Quentin Hapsburg (an extra-smamry Robery Goulet), an oil executive who is also dating Jane (Priscilla Presley), Drebin's girlfriend from the first movie. Apparently, Drebin's police work got in the way of their relationship, and now she is working as the public relations director for Dr. Albert Mainhemer (Richard Griffiths), a scientist to whom President George Bush is placing responsibility for setting the country's energy policy. To keep Mainhemer from pushing his policy of conservation and renewable energies like solar power, Hapsburg and members of the other energy companies kidnap Mainhemer and replace him with a lookalike who will recommend to the President an increased focus on oil, coal, and nuclear power.

The satirical barbs aimed at big business and energy companies are sharp, with one particularly hilarious scene depicting an oil company commercial in which the announcer espouses the rigorous means by which they select their oil barge captains, while the image on the TV shows all the captains being tested for alcohol intoxication (remember, this came out right after the Exxon Valdez disaster). Environmental jokes are everywhere, including poor Frank's attempts to woo back Jane. He simply can't understand why she would be upset that he bought up acres of Brazilian rain forest and then slashed and burned them to make way for their dream home. "Hey, you think it was easy displacing an entire tribe?" he asks.

The movie does not concern itself entirely with social issues, though. One can only imagine how much fun director David Zucker had parodying the famous love scene from his brother Jerry's hit movie "Ghost" (1990). Watching Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley trying to act sexy while pottery clay is splattering them in the face makes you realize how potentially ridiculous (and kind of gross) the "Ghost" scene is.

"Naked Gun 2 1/2" is primarily the work of David Zucker, who co-wrote and directed the first film. His partners in the infamous ZAZ team, his brother Jerry and their childhood friend Jim Abrahams, take a backseat as executive producers, leaving the writing chores up to David Zucker and Pat Proft (who also contributed to the original's screenplay). They do a good job of maintaining the comedic momentum while also expanding on the characters (as much as can be done in a film of this sort). The movie is, like the first one, filled with self-consciously idiotic dialogue and throwaway gags. One of my favorites scenes takes place in a sad-sack lounge called "The Blue Note" that features pictures of the San Francisco earthquake, the Titanic, and Michael Dukakis on the walls and a depressed singer who intones, "I'm feeling blue, Just thinking of you, I get out of bed, Wish I was dead, And I hope you do, too."

This sequel might feel like a simple reworking of the first film if Leslie Nielsen weren't so consistently appealing in his role as Frank Drebin. It's only in a movie like this that the main character can stand up and take applause for having killed his 1,000th drug dealer, and then remark, "In all honesty, the last two I backed over with my car. Luckily they turned out to be drug dealers." It's just that kind of movie.

Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear DVD

AudioDolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Dolby 2.0 Surround
ExtrasAudio commentary by director David Zucker, producer Robert Weiss, and host Peter Tilden
Original theatrical trailer
Teaser trailer
DistributorParamount Pictures

The new anamorphic widescreen transfer of this film is a little more grainy that the first "Naked Gun" disc (especially in the night scenes), but it is still a vast improvement over what had previously been available. Colors are well saturated and flesh tones appear realistic. There was a small amount of pixel breakup from time to time, but nothing distracting.

This disc offers both a newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and a Dolby 2.0 surround track. There is not a great deal of difference between the two, as the 5.1 track keeps most of the action limited to the front soundstage. The only time it truly opens up is when Ira Newborn's musical score kicks in (see especially the opening credits sequence).

Like the first "Naked Gun," this DVD features a running commentary with director David Zucker, producer Robert Weiss, and host Peter Tilden. Once again, they spend most of their time joking, proving why they are so adept at coming up with their material. The disc also features the original theatrical trailer and a teaser trailer that uses the "Ghost" spoof scene. Both trailers are presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Overall Rating: (3)

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