I don't know who's in charge of picking out the Blu-ray discs that have been heading directly to Best Buy, but I hope the guy has gotten a corner office or a shiny plaque or something out of the deal. They've been
on kind of a tear over the past year or two, gobbling up a gaggle of really great and really eclectic flicks...everything from Almost Famous to Anchorman to the original Last House on the Left. Their latest batch of exclusives is anchored around comedies, including the first season of Archer, Airplane!, Stripes, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and...well, you just scrolled past the title in big, bold letters up there, so you already know I'm gonna say The Naked Gun.
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It's been something like twenty years since I last gave The Naked Gun a spin, but if I had to hammer out a review way back then, Junior-High-Me probably would've heaped on a perfect five stars. No, wait, six stars...better than perfect! I was such a sucker back then for that Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker Gatling gun-style approach to comedy, and I figured it'd be a big nostalgic blast to dive into a high-def double feature of Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Not really sure what happened. Maybe it's 'cause I opted to watch the movie by myself rather than with a roomful of friends. Maybe it's because I'm cold and dead inside. Whatever the reason is...geez, I had a really, really tough time slogging my way through The Naked Gun again.
There kind of is a plot for me to rattle off, so I guess I'll talk about that before I swoop back into the whole bitching thing. Detective Nordberg (O.J. Simpson)! Gunned down in his prime! Sprawled across some stiff hospital bed, barely clinging onto life! Word on the street is that Nordberg was shilling heroin on the docks, but his one-time partner Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) can't...won't...no, let's go with "can't"...buy into that. So, Drebin launches his own investigation on his downtime, which isn't much seeing as how he's supposed
to be heading up security when Queen Elizabeth skips merrily across the pond for a visit. Turns out that there's a big assassination plot, they do the whole hardboiled detective thing where two completely different cases wind up colliding, and you even score a kinda-sorta femme fatale in Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), personal assistant to a quadraseptazillionaire industrialist (Ricardo Montalban) who has a thick accent and is therefore the bad guy.
|Oh no! A Swiss Army SHOE!|
...but, yeah, the story is kind of just an excuse to string together 84 minutes of dick and fart jokes. I don't mean that in some sort of haughty, sneering, pretentiously-pushing-my-glasses-up-the-bridge-of-my-nose reviewer sort of way because...hey, I'm all for dick and fart jokes as long as they're good dick and fart jokes. I guess part of my problem with The Naked Gun versus some of the other ZAZ stuff -- including Airplane!, Kentucky Fried Movie, and the way-more-clever Police Squad series that spawned this flick in the first place -- is that so much of the comedy is rooted around PG-13 raunch, and that sort of thing really doesn't age that well. Overcranked peeing during a press conference, ballplayers spitting and scratching their junk, and squeezed boobs making honking sounds just don't do it for me anymore. Its sense of humor doesn't get anywhere near as surreally ridiculousness as ZAZ' best comedies, and they freely admit in their audio commentary that a lot of the witty wordplay was shoved aside for physical comedy that'd play better overseas. Leslie Nielsen's brilliant when he's deadpanning it in Airplane! and Police Squad, but here he's constantly bug-eyed and mugging for the camera, and that sort of over-the-top, Inspector Clouseau-style slapstick isn't nearly as much fun. I think the only time I laughed for right at an hour and a half was during some of the fake baseball bloopers stuff leading up to the climax. The rest of the third act at the baseball game is just...ack. Like, I-oughtta-get-hazard-pay-for-reviewing-this-style "ack".
So, now I'm wishing I'd grabbed a copy of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to write about instead. Oh well. Lesson learned, and at least I have a cheery review of Airplane! I'll have up later tonight. The Naked Gun, though...? No sir, I didn't like it.
You might cringe your way through the disappointingly soft and flat first few minutes of The Naked Gun in high-def, but wait it out. Once that whole introductory sequence is shoved outta the way and the lights go up, this
Blu-ray disc is kind of a knockout. Detail and definition are rock solid throughout pretty much every frame of the flick, at least whenever there's plenty of light to play with. I'm guessing this is a pretty recent remaster seeing as how nice and filmic the whole thing looks. There's a very fine sheen of film grain that doesn't show any sign of being smeared away by heavy-handed noise reduction, and there aren't any hiccups in the compression or any artificial sharpening that's been heaped on either. The, um, accidental arson is a scene that seems like it would've broken up into a big, blocky mess on one of the high-def channels on cable, but the AVC encode here never once sputters or stutters under the weight of it all. Colors look punchy and spot-on too, and there isn't much in the way of speckling or wear to gripe about. Yeah, yeah, I'm not a fan of the movie so much, but I'm still really impressed by how great it looks on Blu-ray. I don't have that decade-old DVD handy to do a direct comparison or anything, but it seems like an awfully safe bet that this Blu-ray disc is well, well worth the upgrade.
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Fun technical stuff! The Naked Gun eases back on the mattes a bit to reveal an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The movie's been encoded with AVC and just barely spills over onto the second layer of this BD-50 disc.
The Naked Gun is lugging around a 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The remix keeps it pretty much straightahead stereo, though. The surrounds are mostly limited to reinforcing the score and dishing out occasional effects like the echoey P.A. at the climactic baseball game, the "whoooo!"s on a rollercoaster, and anemic cracks of gunfire. What kinda surprised me is how overcooked the point-one part of this 5.1 remix is. The bass behind the punches and pratfalls sounds cartoonishly cranked-up, and...okay, maybe that's the point, but it sounds so out of place that it winds up feeling pretty distracting. I think I would've just as soon had a clean, boring stereo track instead. Totally listenable but pointlessly remixed.
Also included are Dolby Digital mono tracks in French and Portuguese as well as a stereo Spanish dub. Subtitles are served up in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Yeah, not much.
- Audio Commentary: Popping into the recording booth this time around are writer/director David Zucker, producer Robert Weiss, and I-don't-know-what Peter Tilden. It's not as much fun as the Airplane! commentary
but is still pretty solid, running through the way international audiences prompted them to go for more visual jokes and not so much in the way of puns, how The Naked Gun would never score a PG-13 nowadays, accidentally trashing prized possessions in an real-life mayor's office, how they lined up actual baseball teams for the climax, and explaining how Police Squad was cancelled all those years ago because people actually had to watch it. I know, right? The three of 'em spend a good bit of time chatting about gags and scenes that were snipped out, like a few minutes' straight of geysers upon geysers of vomit, but...alas! No deleted scenes or outtakes on this Blu-ray disc.
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- Trailer (2 min.; HD): Oooh, look! A high-def theatrical trailer!
The same as the other Paramount titles in this batch of Best Buy exclusives, The Naked Gun comes packaged in a slipcover with lenticular animation. I started to crack a joke about SportsFlicks cards until I remembered that no one would get it.
The Final Word
The Naked Gun doesn't exactly hold up for me all these years later, but if you're a fan of the flick and have fifteen bucks burning a hole in your whatever, you could do a lot worse. The lossless audio's kinda sloppy, and there's not all that much in the way of extras, but this Blu-ray disc sure does look nice, and I'm pretty sure that's why you clicked on this review in the first place. My vote: better off as a rental once Best Buy's window-o'-exclusivity on this sucker has closed.