Roger Ebert’s opinions on film have never always been the same as mine (see our respective reviews of Field of Dreams, The Game, and 2001: A Space Odyssey for proof of this), but looking at his thoughts on Police Academy and The Naked Gun, two ‘80s slapstick comedies with very similar plots and styles of humor, have simply baffled me beyond all comprehension.
After watching the former (which I admittedly have not seen, nor am exactly hustling to anytime soon), he gave it 0/4 stars and said this: “[This film] is really something. It's so bad, maybe you should pool your money and draw straws and send one of the guys off to rent it so that in the future, whenever you think you're sitting through a bad comedy, he could shake his head, and chuckle tolerantly, and explain that you don't know what bad is.”
So you’d think he’d have similar thoughts for The Naked Gun, right? Nope. Not only did he bestow a full 3.5/4 stars upon the film, but also ended his review of it with these words: “‘The Naked Gun’ is an utterly goofy movie and a lot of fun, and don’t let anyone tell you all the jokes before you go.” So what happened? Surely, Mr. Ebert must have developed a greater tolerance to these kinds of films as he kept watching them, or else his opinions on these two wouldn’t be so drastically different.
In any case, though, this is unfortunately yet another time in which I’m going to have to disagree with him, for in my (very honest) opinion, The Naked Gun admittedly can be “so-stupid-it’s-funny” at times, but elsewhere, it’s just so stupid that it’s really…. stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s stupid?
To top things off, the actual plotline (that is, what very little there is of it) is probably the stupidest thing of all: a bumbling lieutenant cop played by Leslie Neilsen has to save the Queen of England from getting assassinated at a baseball game once one of the players goes under some “mind-control” device that works by… um… I don’t know.
Never mind that: I did write positively of “dumb” comedies like Starsky & Hutch and Mars Attacks!, but they had some really clever writing and humor to make up for their slight narrative deficiencies. The Naked Gun has neither of these, and is just a dull, repetitive, incredibly groan-inducing trudge through incredibly unimaginative slapstick that often gets dragged out way too long (if there was ever a film that was the literal definition of “overkill”, this would be the one) and annoyingly juvenile humor that isn’t nearly witty enough to actually be funny.
Note: After initially giving this film a measly 5/10, I upped it a notch after realizing that I was being far too harsh on what is essentially a harmlessly goofy film (and even the score I gave it below might be too little, come to think of it). But still, as far as those types of movies go, you could really do a whole lot better than this. Check out Starsky or Caddyshack (a film seen, but unfortunately not reviewed just yet, by me) instead.