WHAT IS it they always say?
run, don't walk, to "The Naked Gun." Even if you have to elbow your sweet old mother-in-law or moony grandson out of the way to get to it, by all means do. You won't be sorry. It's that funny.
Do I rave? Very well then, I rave. It has been years since I laughed this hard at a movie. It's hilarious. That isn't hyperbole. It's simply an accurate description of the kind of constant, unredeemably low comedy I howled at in "The Naked Gun." (To say that it's the funniest movie of the year is almost limiting. It's hegemony probably extends over a couple of years.)
It's from Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker, who came out of Wisconsin, warmed up with "Kentucky Fried Movie" and then served up "Airplane," "Top Secret," "Ruthless People" and TV's late, dearly-lamented "Police Squad." In fact, the full title of "The Naked Gun" is "The Naked Gun: From the Files of 'Police Squad.'"
The movie contains a good deal of ribaldry that is impossible on TV but many of the fondly remembered and idiotically short-lived characters from the series are back in the film: Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin and the cop who's so tall that his head is out of frame every time he walks through the action.
Generically, this is, I suppose, a cop movie "spoof," though anyone who's ever seen the yock cavalcades of Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker knows that they created their own genre from the cutting room floor of American classic comedy.
The boys outdid themselves here with an incredible blizzard of gags of every kind -- cheap gags, stupid gags, smart gags, sight gags, verbal gags, innocent gags, dirty gags, sick gags, healthy gags, you name it.
I can't imagine anybody caring about something as paltry as a plot in such a profusion but, such as it is, it concerns an evil tycoon (Ricardo Montalban), his beautiful secretary (Priscilla Presley) and a conspiracy to kill Queen Elizabeth.
I don't know about you but I find two out of those three parts -- Queen Elizabeth and Priscilla Presley -- inherently hilarious. You have to give Priscilla Presley credit. She's playing a part but she walks into walls and just generally makes a deliciously beautiful fool of herself.
The gags come continuously about one every 20 seconds: a safe sex sight gag, for instance, that may well stand as the safe sex gag for all time; O. J. Simpson as the most accident prone undercover cop in history, and a wild Abbott and Costello-ish bit parodying all those movie and TV cops who give potential informants crisp $20 bills.
Then there are the lines. Here are a couple which drift by: Doctor (to wife of patient): "I think I can save your husband's arm. Where would you like it sent?"; Secretary (to Boss): "Mr. Ludwig, Mr. Papsmear is here."
The sight gags are equally outrageous -- a wonderful bit of escalating explosions and a gut-bustingly funny chase across some anatomically accurate building gargoyles. It all comes together at a baseball game with the ultimate baseball announcing team in the booth and the bad guy stomped to death by a marching band playing "Louie, Louie."
Give Abrahams and the Zuckers credit. They knew that in his blundering rectitude, Leslie Nielsen would be a postiviely inspired buffoon. And that he is.
Such shamelessly inelegant entertainment isn't to everybody's taste.
But, in its artless anarchy, this is in the great American movie tradition of The Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, etc. It may be cheap, tacky and primitive but it's above all funny.
It seems that almost every time these guys make a movie, they prove that the whole point of comedy isn't special effects, it's bellylaughs. Even if the hit-to-miss percentage is only 60 percent, that makes it 60 times funnier than "Scrooged."
Rated PG-13 at the Market Arcade, Holiday, University and McKinley Mall Theaters.