The mother of all movies…and sequels!
Everyone loves a good spoof. Well, maybe not everyone. Osama Bin Laden probably doesn't like a good spoof. Neither does Mickey Rourke. Or Charles Manson. Other than those goons, everyone else just loves a goof spoof. The ZAZ team (Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker) perfected the genre with their outrageously great giggle fest Airplane!. Since then we've had our share of great gag movies (Top Secret!, The Naked Gun series) and not so great gag movies (uh…anything Leslie Nielson starred in after The Naked Gun). In 1991, writer Pat Proft (Real Genius, the highly underrated Brain Donors) and director/co-writer Jim Abrahams lampooned Top Gun with their wacky hit Hot Shots!. In 1993, they took on the Rambo trilogy with their equally goofy sequel Hot Shots Part Deux. Both films are now on DVD to tickle your funny bone!
Facts of the Case
Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen, Men at Work, TV's Spin City) was one of America's best fighter pilots…but he's a renegade, a loner, a real rebel! When the US Air Force brings Sheen out of retirement from his tee-pee (don't ask) for a top secret mission, Topper reluctantly agrees. The mission is headed by the air-headed Admiral "Tug" Benson, a man so incompetent that you're surprised he was able to get himself dressed in the morning. Topper soon finds himself in competition with the corps' egotistical flyboy (Carey Elwes, The Princess Bride) and in heated lust with the base's resident psychiatrist (Valaria Golino, The Indian Runner). Throw in a nearsighted pilot (Jon Cryer, Pretty in Pink) and a few crabs (they work in pairs!), and you've got the nuttiest fleet this side of United Airlines!
Hot Shots Part Deux
The country is in great peril and only one man can help! You guessed it…Topper Harley (Sheen) is back again and this time he's a lean, mean killin' machine! This time Topper's being sent to retrieve American hostages from the Middle East ("You're the best of what we've got left," Topper is informed). His mentor and colleague Col. Denton Walters (Richard Crenna, vivaciously spoofing his Rambo III character) is also along for the ride, as is an assortment of wacky characters including a sex pot federal worker (Brenda Bakke, L.A. Confidential), Topper's old flame (Golino), and even the president of the United States (the always dependable Bridges). This time Topper's doing it for his country…for his friends…and for the laughs!
Movies like Hot Shots! and Hot Shots Part Deux are some of the hardest flicks to review. Story, characters, and cohesiveness are thrown completely out the window. Movies like these come down to only one thing: are they funny? If the answer is no, then you've got another Wrongly Accused or 2001: A Space Travesty on your hands. The fine art of parody walks a thin line—you either hit the nail on the head, or totally miss the mark. When it comes to spoofs like Hot Shots! and its sequel, they are usually hysterically funny or flatly lame. There is almost always no in-between.
Both Hot Shots! and Hot Shots Part Deux are very funny movies. They are packed full of every kind of sight gag and pun you can think of. Each film gets a heavy boost from the real star of the shows: the incomparable, late Lloyd Bridges. After Bridges popped up in the hit Airplane!, he suddenly found a new career in comedy. While some of the films he starred in were uniformly lame, often Bridges came out as a shining diamond among the coal. In Hot Shots!, Bridges found a worthy vehicle for his quick, village idiot humor. As Admiral "Tug" Benson, Bridges does what he does best—falls down, hits his head, and shoots off lines like "I got the better part of my bladder blown off in 'Nam!" May God always have a good chuckle with Bridges in his presence. The literal star of each movie is Charlie Sheen as the hotshot flyboy Topper Harley. Sheen has made a living out of playing cool-headed guys who seem to know more than you think. In Hot Shots! and Hot Shots Part Deux, Sheen uses his droll deadpan delivery to maximum effect. (Hot Shots! may be seen as a precursor to Sheen's starring role on the popular TV sitcom Spin City.)
The supporting cast in each film works equally well, with each person playing the material with the appropriate amount of seriousness it deserves and needs (which is, after all, the only true way a movie like the works). Valeria Golino effuses sexiness as Topper's love interest in both movies. In the first film, Carey Elwes shows that he's just as good at serious looking comedy as he was in The Princess Bride. And who knew Jon Cryer could be such a gosh darn crack up? In Hot Shots Part Deux (possibly even funnier than the first film), we get Miguel Ferrer in a funny departure from his villainous roles, Richard Crenna doing a spoof of Lt. Troutman from those silly but fun Rambo movies, and some random actor as Saddam Hussein in one of the funniest opening scenes ever put on film (did you know that Saddam apparently uses the clapper each night before bed?).
Each movie is jam packed with jokes upon jokes upon even more jokes. Film parodies abound. Puns run rampart. There's even a great gag where Sheen's father shows up to…ahh, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. If ever there were movies worth owning just out of sheer giddy fun, it's both Hot Shots! and Hot Shots Part Deux. Neither has changed the face of cinema, but they did make me smile for a good three hours or so. That's the mark of a good movie.
Both films are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Neither of these transfers are pristine or perfect—and for some odd reason, I didn't really care. While there is an abundance of grain and dirt in each transfer (especially the first Hot Shots!), overall the pleasure of each film was not diminished by any type of imperfection or defect in the transfer. The colors and black levels were all very solid and even without any bleeding or pixelation. Some edge enhancement popped up from time to time, though there wasn't enough there to get my panties in a bind. Each transfer supports its respective film just fine.
The soundtrack to Hot Shots! is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround as well as Dolby Stereo in French and Spanish. Hot Shots Part Deux's soundtrack is featured in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround as well as Dolby Stereo in French and Spanish. Obviously the 5.1 mix for the original Hot Shots! is the best of these soundtracks. Featuring a few well placed directional effects and a nice range of fidelity, this 5.1 should please fans with home theater systems. The rest of the soundtracks—including the sequel's Dolby Digital 2.0 mix—are decent. There's nothing overly impressive about any of these mixes, though much like the transfers they work well within the confines of the film. Also included on each DVD are English and Spanish subtitles.
I was really disappointed at Fox's extra feature treatment on both of these discs. All three Naked Gun films as well as Airplane! had a running commentary with the filmmakers, so why couldn't Fox wrangle writer Pat Proft, director Jim Abrahams, or some of the stars to record a track for these movies? My guess is that if those guys are able to make movies this fun, they would be a lot of fun to listen to! Alas, each disc contains a minimal amount of supplemental material. Hot Shots! includes a "Making of an Important Movie" featurette that is fairly short and not all that insightful. It's got a few interviews with the cast and crew (as well as the standard clips from the film), but that's about it. Hot Shots Part Deux ranks just slightly higher—included on this disc are two…count 'em two, featurettes on the making of the film. "An Adventure in Filmmaking" and "Early Awareness" are just more batches of talking heads discussing what it was like to shoot the film, what they thought of their co-workers (Richard Crenna just can't get over how buff Charlie Sheen is!), and what it's like to do satire. While each of these are entertaining to watch, I'm pretty sure I won't be coming back around for seconds. Also included on each DVD is a theatrical trailer for each respective movie.
Hot Shots! and Hot Shots Part Deux will make you laugh or your money back! How can you go wrong when you've got one of the creators of Airplane!, Lloyd Bridges, and Saddam Hussein packing his daily meal in a kids lunch box? Enjoyable and utterly stoopid, the Hot Shots! movies are well worth your time and money. Brains optional.
Both films are acquitted on all charges due to Lloyd Bridges being brave enough to file in-between his ears with a handkerchief! Case dismissed!
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