Frank Drebin is back.
The Zucker brothers' The Naked Gun was a comedy hit in 1989. For those with a zany sense of humor, the adventures of Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) were a laugh riot from beginning to end. Who among us didn't crack a smile when Leslie Nielsen was bitten on the nose by a fish while trying to retrieve a rare international pen from an adversary's aquarium? In 1991 the wacky Zuckers returned with the equally nutty The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear, featuring more O…J. than you can shake a stick at! Paramount whips up The Smell Of Fear in exciting "odo-rama" on DVD!
Facts of the Case
An in-depth review of a Zucker film is like looking into the shallow end of the wading pool. However, here is a brief synopsis of The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear:
Everyone remembers Frank Drebin (Nielsen). He's the guy who foiled Mr. Fantasy Island's plan to use a mind control device on such unsuspecting subjects as baseball players and secretaries in the original The Naked Gun.
Now comes The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear, and Drebin is up against his most challenging adversary: Robert Goulet! Yes, Mr. Las Vegas himself plays a Quentin Hapsburg, a corrupt business man who is out to ruin the environment with the help of an imposter and his dastardly goons (all dressed in black so we know just who the bad guys really are).
Along the way we're given parodies of films like Ghost, skimpy flying wet suits, and a guy named "Papsmear." Throw George Kennedy, love interest Mrs. Presley, and the Juice in the mix, and you've got the making of comedic gold.
It's difficult to review movies such as The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear. There's really only two ways to do it, and that's to answer one of two questions: did or didn't the movie make you laugh? The answer, of course, is yes, it did make me laugh. A lot. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear has more laughs in its first ten minutes than most comedies of today have in their entire running time. I'm all for a film that uses the phrase "I've been swimming in raw sewage and I LOVE IT."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear is the type of film you'll either love or hate. It's impossible to watch this movie and say, "I guess it was okay." Since it's the same joke with different variations, it's either up your ally or your worst nightmare (as most Adam Sandler films are for me). Every Naked Gun is jam packed with bad puns, broad slapstick, and the usual array of gags and zingers. The characters exist in the confines of a world that is only there to drop safes on them; essentially a real world 'Toon Town. The Zucker brothers have visited this area time and time again; since the'70s, movies like Airplane!, The Kentucky Fried Movie and Top Secret! have all been about rapid-fire laughs. Most comedies (such as Meet The Parents) often have large set-ups for punch lines. It usually takes a few minutes to get the scene and characters in place to land the joke correctly. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear will have none of this. Every joke is squarely off the cuff, usually happening every six seconds. There are even jokes within jokes behind other jokes, which makes repeat viewings of Zucker films an must.
As was the case in the original Naked Gun, the actors all know exactly what type of script they are playing off of. This brand of hijinks wouldn't work if the material were not presented with a straight poker face. Nielsen is the perfect example of this; he never once cracks a smile, spoofing brilliantly the detectives of the 1970s with wit so dry it's like the Mohave in the summer. George Kennedy also has found the right style for Ed, Drebin's sidekick who is always one step ahead of Nielsen, though usually not in the right direction. Of course there's also everyone's favorite anti-hero, O.J. Simpson. Even with all the bad press and publicity over the past few years, O.J. still is funny, though not as funny as he used to be (hey, killing two people will do that to you). The Naked Gun movies also have an intense pleasure of bringing in actors to play villains whom are always odd, but funny, choices. In the first film it was afro-wearing sex-God Ricardo Montalban. In The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear, it's cheesecake crooner Robert Goulet. I was surprised that they didn't get Wayne Newton for The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. Goulet has a certain charm to him, and he's very good at playing off Drebin's antics (with an especially nice touch of bugging out his eyes at every opportunity).
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image looks very good, with only a bit of softness to it. Edge enhancement was not spotted, and dirt and grain were kept to a bare minimum. Colors look bright and sharp, blacks dark and solid with just a touch of gray during some of the night scenes. Overall a very good transfer by the DVD guys at Paramount.
Audio is presented in both the original Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, as well as a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The mix is good, though the new 5.1 track is more noticeable with Ira Newborn's score than with the effects or dialogue. The sound is crystal clear, as are the music and effects. While it's certainly nice to have gotten a new remix on a film like The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear, it's not quite as warranted as a few of the other titles in need. But hey, I ain't complainin'!
Paramount has done a very nice job for the extra features for all three Naked Gun movies. All three of them have commentary tracks, with The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear including commentary by producer Robert Weiss, director and co-writer David Zucker, and host Peter Tilden. The track is light and fun, featuring a lot of laughing as well as technical info and behind the scenes stories. David Zucker has a very dry, witty delivery that makes for really great zingers to questions and remarks. It's great that Paramount included these tracks on the films (as well as the Zucker brothers' film Airplane!). A lot of fun, and worth the listen.
Also included are two anamorphic trailers, including the very funny Ghost parody ("from the brother of the director of Ghost…"). Both trailers are fun to watch, and are a rare instance where the funniest bits from the film were NOT seen in the trailers.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear is deliriously funny, it's not quite as good as the first film. Like any sequel, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear has lost just a smidgen of its freshness, though that is not enough to stop it from being a really good film. The inclusion of a few more extras would have been nice, but a commentary track will do for now.
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear is funny stuff. Though it may be slightly below the original Naked Gun, it still makes for a great movie and a wacky way to spend a Friday night. Paramount has been gracious enough to also include a very good commentary track, and when it's by the makers of a film like this, you know it's going to be a hoot. The transfer is good, the audio is good, and the movie is great. You won't go wrong putting down some cash for The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear. I smell a winner (har-har)!
Absolutely innocent! Great comedy! Great disc! Great galloping garbanzo beans, it's Frank Drebin!
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• Two Theatrical Trailers
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