Tag Archives: David Zucker

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988, David Zucker)

Oh, okay… it’s less than ninety minutes. I was wondering why The Naked Gun felt so fast. It’s because it’s short.

That observation isn’t a negative one—the film is a constant delight, with Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker (and Pat Proft) coming up with a good laugh or gag every thirty to forty seconds. Someone should sit down and figure out how the humor’s paced. Some of the gags get amusing because they keep them up (Leslie Nielsen being a terrible driver) as opposed to being particularly original, but then there are these fantastic inventive gags….

About halfway through, I realized Zucker (the directing Zucker) let the camera sit on his actors. His composition isn’t great—it’s not bad, but it’s not particularly dynamic—but his direction is excellent. He has these long shots in this one exchange between Nielsen and Ricardo Montalban where he holds the shots to give each of them the maximum opportunity. While Nielsen’s amazing—his performance in Gun is sometimes unbelievably good, he even holds it up as the script’s approach shifts (from other people realizing he’s a dimwit to the film’s reality being slightly conked)—Montalban is great too. Zucker gives his best actors—Nielsen (obviously), Montalban and George Kennedy their own segments. Montalban and Kennedy’s both involve food.

Unfortunately, even though she’s not bad, Priscilla Presley is out of her league acting-wise.

Nancy Marchand is excellent in a smaller role and John Houseman’s cameo is wonderful.

The Naked Gun is a superb comedy.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Zucker; screenplay by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Pat Proft, based on a television series created by Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Michael Jablow; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Robert K. Weiss; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Leslie Nielsen (Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), Ricardo Montalban (Vincent Ludwig), George Kennedy (Ed Hocken), O.J. Simpson (Nordberg), Susan Beaubian (Mrs. Nordberg), Raye Birk (Pahpshmir), Jeannette Charles (Queen Elizabeth II), Ed Williams (Ted Olsen), Tiny Ron (Al) and Nancy Marchand as The Mayor.


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The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991, David Zucker)

Watching The Naked Gun 2½, its’s almost immediate clear the missing Z-A or is it A-Z (being Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams) are the ones who made the first film funny. They don’t contribute to this one’s script—instead it’s just the other Z, David Zucker (who also directs) and Pat Proft. The script is so 1991 topical it’s painful… and it’s lame too.

The topical stuff—George H.W. Bush is a character (being the president and all) and there’s a lot about the Democratic Party being in trouble—would probably be funny on a sitcom. Or maybe on a “Saturday Night Live” sketch (why they didn’t get Dana Carvey is beyond me). Then there’s some stuff about evil energy companies. That aspect is still topical, I suppose.

Particularly stupid is the film taking place in Washington, D.C. They explain Leslie Nielsen is just visiting from Los Angeles, but apparently George Kennedy and O.J. Simpson transferred.

Nielsen’s able to keep it together, even though the script only gives him a good laugh every three minutes (instead of every thirty seconds like the original), but Kennedy looks exhausted. Simpson’s good. Priscilla Presley is weak too (Zucker and Proft break her and Nielsen up off screen so they can reunite in the story—awful decision). Robert Goulet’s awful.

The film also has a stupid female police commissioner character just like the first one. It’s a subtle bit of misogyny.

The jokes occasionally work, but it’s a lukewarm, lousy sequel.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by David Zucker; screenplay by David Zucker and Pat Proft, based on a television series by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Christopher Greenbury and James R. Symons; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Robert K. Weiss; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Leslie Nielsen (Det. Lt. Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), George Kennedy (Det. Captain Ed Hocken), O.J. Simpson (Det. Nordberg), Robert Goulet (Quentin Hapsburg), Richard Griffiths (Dr. Albert S. Meinheimer / Earl Hacker) and Jacqueline Brookes (Commissioner Anabell Brumford).


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Ruthless People (1986, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker)

Clocking in at a whopping ninety minutes, Ruthless People feels a tad undercooked. Lots of trailer-ready sequences, lots of memorable moments, nothing to really connect them. The ZAZ directing team (it’s probably been sixteen years since I’ve thought about them) is adequate, but they don’t really direct actors very well here, so the casting goes a long way (Bill Pullman suffers the most, having the easiest character to play and most of his scenes fall flat).

Danny DeVito is great–turning in a performance so good I thought about renting Twins–but he’s not really getting any help from the directors and the script just plays him as a jerk, so DeVito isn’t really doing anything very difficult. Weight loss figures greatly in to the story–it saves kidnappers Helen Slater and Judge Reinhold from doing jail time–as Bette Midler loses twenty pounds in four days and has the Stockholm syndrome going in full effect.

The movie’s mostly missed opportunities–not counting the cartoon relationship between DeVito and Midler, which is mostly implied–particularly Reinhold and Slater’s touching love story… also implied. They’re the down-on-their-luck young couple who made a big mistake and haven’t been able to recover. There’s a lot of possibility (especially with a Michel Colombier score), but it doesn’t go anywhere.

Thanks to all the problems–the directors and the writer (I have no idea if the abbreviated storytelling is the script or the direction, but it’s unfair to put it all on the directors)–the most amusing parts of Ruthless People are the two cops, played by Art Evans and Clarence Felder, who are enduring all the defects along with the audience. A mix approach–the kidnappers, the cops, the husband–required traditional storytelling in Ruthless People….

Instead, the directors just made an unfilling mess.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; written by Dale Launer, based on a story by O. Henry; director of photography, Jan de Bont; edited by Gib Jaffe and Arthur Schmidt; music by Michel Colombier; produced by Michael Peyser; released by Touchstone Films.

Starring Danny DeVito (Sam Stone), Bette Midler (Barbara Stone), Judge Reinhold (Ken Kessler), Helen Slater (Sandy Kessler), Anita Morris (Carol Dodsworth), Bill Pullman (Earl Mott), William G. Schilling (Chief Henry Benton), Art Evans (Lt. Bender), Clarence Felder (Lt. Walters), J.E. Freeman (Bedroom Killer) and Gary Riley (Heavy Metal Kid).


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