Dragnet was a hit. I’m always shocked when good comedies are hits. Good comedies haven’t been hits since I’ve been able to legally buy cigarettes.
There are a couple things, right off, I don’t want to forget about. First is Tom Hanks. He’s such a good comedic actor, what he’s done since–the serious man bit–is nothing compared to what he does here in Dragnet. Tom Hanks, to reference another 1987 comedy, is at his best when wearing women’s lingerie.
The other thing is the script (which had three screenwriters, so it’s hard to compliment the right person)–but the script is brilliant. Dragnet‘s structure is impressed and the pacing is fantastic, but the film has these two characters–Dan Aykroyd and Alexandra Paul–who the audience is supposed to laugh at in almost every scene… but the audience also needs to root for them (and their romance–I mean, Ira Newborn’s got a great piece of music as a love theme–but rooting for the rubes’ romance should be a tall order but isn’t here).
Paul has a harder acting job, since Aykroyd is, after all, the hero.
The film’s nearly perfectly cast… Christopher Plummer is great, Dabney Coleman too. Only Jack O’Halloran is problematic. He looks perfect in the part, but once he starts “acting,” it fizzles.
Mankiewicz is a fine director. He’s got a good sense of composition mixed with a nice, straightforward style. The editing is quite good as well.
It’s just an excellent comedy.
Directed by Tom Mankiewicz; screenplay by Dan Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel and Mankiewicz, based on the radio and television series created by Jack Webb; director of photography, Matthew F. Leonetti; edited by Richard Halsey and William D. Gordean; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, Robert F. Boyle; produced by David Permut and Robert K. Weiss; released by Universal Pictures
Starring Dan Aykroyd (Sgt. Joe Friday), Tom Hanks (Pep Streebeck), Christopher Plummer (Reverend Jonathan Whirley), Harry Morgan (Captain Bill Gannon), Alexandra Paul (Connie Swail), Jack O’Halloran (Emil Muzz), Elizabeth Ashley (Jane Kirkpatrick), Dabney Coleman (Jerry Caesar), Kathleen Freeman (Enid Borden), Bruce Gray (Mayor Parvin) and Lenka Peterson (Granny Mundy).