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GAG ME WITH A SPOOF IN 'HOT SHOTS' SEQUEL, TOO MUCH OF A MEDIOCRE THING

HERE'S WHAT my notes look like from the first 15 minutes of watching "Hot Shots Part Deux": "No break between jokes, relentless. Mocks presidents, sexism, Subway subs, professional fighting, 'Dragon,' this is stupid, dizzying . . . slow down . . . "

Then the notes become garbled, because I started to laugh. Not at the jokes -- at the ridiculousness of this latest attempt to milk cash from the spoof-movie cow.

Ever eat a pizza with one too many toppings? That's "Hot Shots Part Deux" in a nutshell. There's no time to savor the deliciousness of each truly creative gag or line; they just come at you in a wave. Eventually you don't feel good, you just feel . . . full.

Sean "Topper" Harley (a bulked-up, Stallone-esque Charlie Sheen) has been pining for Ramada (Golino) ever since she dumped him in the last movie. Licking his wounds and pounding pottery at a Tibetan monastery (thinking Rambo yet?), Harley is visited by Col. Denton Walters, who coerces Harley to infiltrate Iraq and rescue a posse of American hostages. Still not enough Rambo references yet? How's this:

Col. Walters is played by Richard Crenna, in a blatant, straight-faced send-up of his own role as Col. Trautman in all three Rambo films.

Guiding them all is U.S. President Thomas "Tug" Benson, a ditsy, half-mad, bumbling boob of a man who makes Ronald Reagan seem like a nuclear physicist.

Harley parachutes into Iraq. He reunites with Ramada, who begs him to free the hostages, one of whom is (start humming "As Time Goes By") her older, wiser, experienced freedom-fighter husband, who she thought was dead but learned was alive and captive.

Together, they break into the camp, find the Americans, wrestle with a Saddam Hussein look-alike and release Ramada's freedom-fighting husband, who turns out to be the utter antithesis of Victor Lazlo: Rowan Atkinson (of "Blackadder" fame) turns out a smart, dainty performance as a delicate soldier who whines and fusses his way through his own rescue. Devastating.

But the entire mission is lost in what seems to be the real point of "Hot Shots Part Deux": hurl as many sight gags, inside jokes and buffoonery as possible at the audience. Savage everything and everyone, from presidential vomiting, celibacy and Cindy Crawford's beauty mole, to Bruce Lee, Bob Vila, "The Godfather," "Lady & the Tramp," "Basic Instinct," "Casablanca" . . . and on and on.

Sigh. When will director Jim Abrahams learn? In comedy, nothing is sacred -- but not everything is funny.

The nothing-sacred bit has served Abrahams -- and his former partners David and Jerry Zuker -- well through three movies: "Airplane!" (1980), "Naked Gun" (1988) and "Naked Gun 2 1/2 : The Smell of Fear" (1991).

But the Zuckers are not in on the "Hot Shots" sequel, and it shows.

Save for Atkinson's performance -- and a stunning and brutally funny cameo halfway through, involving Sheen, a boat, a river and Sheen's famous father -- this one isn't really worth seeing, except as a reminder that even the best of tried-and-true formulas someday become tired-but-true formulas.

Movie
Hot Shots Part Deux
Rating: **
Charlie Sheen and Valeria Golino reprise their roles as star-crossed lovers in the latest action-movie spoof, which mocks everything from Casablanca to Rambo.
Starring Charlie Sheen, Valeria Golino, Lloyd Bridges and Richard Crenna.
Rated PG-13, opening today in area theaters.

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