July 15th, 2008

HOT SHOTS! (1991) ***

After co-writing and co-directing the classic Airplane and Top Secret, the comedy team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker broke up and went their separate ways.  While David went on to direct the awesome Naked Gun and Jerry directed the sappy chick flick Ghost; Abrahams directed this uneven but entertaining spoof of Top Gun.


The “story” is basically the same as Top Gun.  Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) is a Navy pilot with severe father issues.  His risk taking behavior gets him in hot water with his superiors and… Christ, who cares what the plot is.  The plot is just an excuse to hang a bunch of funny gags on. 


The reason Hot Shots works so well is because Abrahams is lampooning a movie that deserves to be spoofed.  Today, most spoofs are a hodgepodge parody of forgettable films that had only left the multiplexes a few months earlier.  The Hot Shots movies always had a knack for sending up gung ho Reagan Era action movies and although Abrahams’ brand of humor may be a bit scattershot, for the most part, Hot Shots is filled with a bunch of laughs.  Besides the obvious Top Gun references, the movie also finds time to parody such flicks as Dances With Wolves, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Rocky, Gone with the Wind, Superman, and in the film’s funniest send-up, 9 ½ Weeks. 


The performances help a lot.  Charlie Sheen plays things more or less straight but has a mischievous gleam in his eye and is clearly having fun sending up his bad boy image.  Cary Elwes also shows a flair for light comedy here and two years later, he’d go on to star in his own spoof movie, Robin Hood:  Men in Tights.  Jon Cryer (who would later co-star with Sheen in the hit series, Two and a Half Men) also gets some memorable moments as a pilot with wall-eyed vision.  But it’s the late, great Lloyd Bridges who steals the movie as the dim-witted captain with a laundry list of war wounds. 


While Bridges gets most of the movie’s laughs, it’s Sheen who gets the best line of the movie:  “If you keep this up, you’ll be carrying your face home in a doggy bag!”



Most of the same talent behind and in front of the camera returned for this sequel to the hit spoof, Hot Shots.  Part Deux is in every way the equal to the first movie.  The laughs are frequent, the movie parodies are hilarious (this one mainly spoofs the Rambo films), and Charlie Sheen delivers yet another great performance as Topper Harley.  


Lloyd Bridges is now the president and he sends Richard Crenna (parodying his Rambo role to a tee) to convince Topper to rescue a bunch of kidnapped soldiers over in Iraq.  Since Topper is busy living the peaceful life in a Buddhist monastery, he declines.  When Crenna is also kidnapped, Topper finally agrees to “go get the men who went to get the men who went to get the men.”


The Bloodsport parody where Sheen dips his fists in caramel and gummy bears is pretty great but the best gag is the on-screen body count that pops up during the film’s biggest shootout.  There are also some pretty funny sight gags and visual references to Lady and the Tramp, Basic Instinct, No Way Out and Terminator 2; as well as an awesome cameo by Martin Sheen.  Sure there are a couple gags that don’t quite work, but there are definitely plenty of inspired moments (my favorite being the lightsaber battle between Bridges and Saddam Hussein). 


Again Bridges gets all the biggest laughs, but it’s Sheen who gets the best line of the movie:  “I left my heart in my other pants.”


Bridges and director Jim Abrahams later teamed up for the vastly underappreciated gangster spoof, Mafia.