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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Production Company: Paramount Pictures
Director: Peter Segal
Producers: Robert K. Weiss and David Zucker
Scriptwriters: Pat Proft, David Zucker and Robert LoCash
Main Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Fred Ward, Kathleen Freeman and Anna Nicole Smith
Released: March 18 1994 (US) and May 20 1994 (UK)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
The third and final entry in the incredibly funny Naked Gun trilogy follows the same formula as the two previous films: a basic, silly yet humorous plotline, with the Police Squad required to prevent a disaster occuring. Along the way is a ton of slapstick comedy, from one-liners to physical jokes to facial expressions. This is seen as the weakest of the three films, although it is still extremely funny and is a more than worthy end to arguably the greatest comedy trilogy ever.
Before we get to the main story, we learn that Lt. Frank Dreben (Leslie Nielsen) and Jane Spencer-Dreben (Priscilla Presley) are now married (hence her name change), but are searching for a spark that will spice up their sex lives, partly because Jane is hopeful that they may be able to have a child (or, as Frank says later on, a “little Frank Junior”; the visual of what he could look like is hilarious). But Frank’s spirit is slightly down, partly because, as we see, he has recently retired from the Police Squad. Fortunately for him, his old friends Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) and Det. Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) pay him a visit and explain that they need a little assistance in an ongoing investigation. Frank is reluctant to get involved given his retirement, but does admit that he misses the old job – and, as Ed points out, “(Frank hasn’t) shot anyone in six months”, to which Frank replies “That’s true. Funny how you miss the little things.”
So, Frank gets involved, but when Jane learns of his participation, she leaves him. Unusually, Frank tries to cover up his undercover work by suggesting that he was with another woman, but Jane humorously takes no notice and is more concerned with him getting involved in stopping crime again. As the story rolls on, we learn that a new villain (Rocco Dillon, played by Fred Ward) is planning to escape from Statesville Prison and, with the help of his team of cronies, he plans a major incident. To try and stop this, Frank offers to go to jail as a pretend criminal, get on Rocco’s side and help him with his plot, with the intention of stopping it from within and alerting Police Squad of what is planned.
Eventually, we discover that the plan is to blow up the venue of the Academy Awards. By now, Jane is back on the scene, but the question remains: how can Frank and co prevent this explosion happening? Their attempts are not as difficult as one may expect in terms of turning things in their favour but, without obtaining the smoking gun, disaster is still guaranteed. A staple of the Naked Gun trilogy is how Frank’s efforts to stop a tragedy occuring are ridiculously over-the-top yet riotously entertaining, and this movie is probably the funniest of the three in that regard: if you haven’t seen this film, these scenes will provoke almost constant laughter. But the big question is: does the Police Squad succeed in their final big-screen outing? And, despite their trials and tribulations, do Frank and Jane finally get their “little Frank Junior”?
As stated, The Naked Gun trilogy ends in a great way here. Unlike some trilogies which try to resolve ongoing plot mysteries, none are required here: it simply allows the cast to do what they do best, and that’s try to prevent chaos in a hilarious fashion. The only real link between all three movies concerns the evolution of the relationship between Frank and Jane and, in that respect, the ending should satisfy. There is a slight weakness in this movie in that, more than in the previous two, the plot at times takes a back seat to comedy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering that it is a comedy; however, it does mean that some jokes have that “trying too hard” feel to them, although there are a ton of laugh-out-loud moments.
It’s hard to say whether this should have been the end for The Naked Gun or not. This entry proves that there was still a lot of life left in the trilogy; it didn’t really feel stale, and the jokes are as funny as ever. But perhaps it was best to let it end while they were still really, really entertaining, and to not let it continue and eventually become a shell of its former self (as was the case for other film series’, such as Police Academy). And this allows the Frank Dreben character to go out on a high, or at least a high by the standards of his character and the world that he operates within.
Leslie Neilsen died on November 28 2010, aged 84. It was a great loss to the world of both movie and comedy that such a funny man would leave us, despite his advanced years. And it did feel weird when I first watched these movies again after his death. But whilst we won’t receive any further entertainment from Neilsen, we can always look back on his work and savour the moments when he was utterly hilarious. Renowned at first for being a serious actor, the Canadian eventually became the comic actor who we all remember him as. He also shone in other movies, most notably Airplane! But he will be most remembered for his brilliant role as Lt. Frank Dreben in the three Naked Gun movies. Comedies will continue to be churned out, and many will be hilarious, but to this writer, none will ever be as complete a comedy package as The Naked Gun trilogy, and no comedy performer will ever be as funny in a movie setting than Leslie Neilsen as Lieutenant Frank Dreben.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 – Classic