THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2: THE SMELL OF FEAR (1991)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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Directed by: David Zucker

Written by: David Zucker & Pat Proft

Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Robert Goulet & Richard Griffiths

Three years following the success of THE NAKED GUN, this sequel hit as a summer blockbuster. It was financially successful but nearly as well received as the first film. There’s a solid reason for that and it’s simply because THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2 falls into the typical sequel trap of not living up to the original. There are still plenty of solid jokes and good laughs to be found within this second installment of Frank Drebin’s misadventures, but the script seems to be pushing the envelope in desperation for a few shock value laughs and lacks two of the four screenwriters from the first film. In most cases, fewer writers would be seen as a positive, but I’d attribute the rapid fire laughs of the original to those four writers working together on a spoof that hit near-perfection.

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Time has passed since we last saw Frank Drebin. His love Jane has broken up with him and he’s made a fool of himself at a White House dinner commemorating law enforcement. When President Bush (the first one) announces a blank check will be given to a scientist studying a safer and cheaper form of energy for the country, a kidnapping is committed and Frank is put on the case. This throws him in the sights of an evil madman and possibly back into the good graces of Jane. Racing against the clock, Frank must go the extra mile to put a stop to this sinister plot and save the day.

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As mentioned before, the two missing writers may have a lot to do with the lack of non-stop laughs. The first film offered rewarding repeat viewings (catching things in the background or bits of dialogue you may have missed earlier), but this sequel throws every single joke up obviously in one sitting. There are still plenty of sight gags, but most of the laughs come from a series of skit-like scenes that revolve around a fast-and-loose excuse for a story. Another detriment with this second installment is that the plot is fairly weak. It serves almost like a MONTY PYTHON-esque set-up but without the massive amount of creativity and talent that British comedy trope had. The great moments are made of scenes that take a while to build up to and that build up is nearly barren of jokes. When the movie works, it works very well. The final third is great and only hints at how hilarious this movie could have been if the momentum in the last 30 minutes had been spread among the whole film.

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The original cast all return here. The star is once again Leslie Nielsen and he slips right back into the role without a moment’s notice. This sequel does have that rare feeling of picking up right after the first one left off (even though it takes place a while after the first film). It’s the same kind of atmosphere that the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy contains, where it feels less like multiple movies and more like an epic-length three-part film. In this case, this middle entry isn’t even close to being as fantastic as the original, but it still holds up well. O.J. Simpson gets more screen time here (which is a bit of a bummer), but still suffers crippling injuries so that’s easy to forgive. As the hammy villain, Robert Goulet plays his role entirely straight-faced. I feel that’s the greatest thing about these first two NAKED GUN movies. The bad guys are playing it off as a serious role, while Nielsen humiliates himself in front of them. All three NAKED GUN films also has a ludicrously over-the-top villain death and Goulet is my favorite. Though Ricardo Montalban was a better villain and had a more creative demise, I loved how simple and stupid the Goulet’s death is. I laugh my ass off at it and it’s a good pick me up clip on YouTube for whenever I’m having a rainy day.

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NAKED GUN 2 1/2 is a lot of fun and a good second installment for fans of the first film (an undeniable comedy classic). It lacks the rapid fire wit and pace of the original, but uses great set pieces and has a hysterical final third. Keeping a few of the best elements that made the first film so funny and shifting them ever so slightly to feel fresh, NAKED GUN 2 1/2 focuses more on skit-like scenes. The movie also pushes the PG-13 rating to a surprising length at points (with some over-the-top gore near the opening and another scene in a sex toy shop with some unusual kinky items). Like most sequels, NAKED GUN 2 1/2 doesn’t live up to the original. Unlike many of sequels, it’s still good and enjoyable for fans of its predecessor.

Grade: B

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