Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, by Albert W. Vogt III

Believe it or not, there was a time when Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson was not known for allegedly killing Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  I say “allegedly” because while he was acquitted of those charges, public opinion begs to differ.  He later went to jail for other reasons.  Yet, before his legal troubles began, he turned a hall of fame career as a running back for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL) into a fairly success run as an actor.  Though he is not the star of the Naked Gun franchise, they are among his most well-known films.  If you are familiar with their trademark slapstick humor, and with the crimes with which he has been accused, you might be somewhat confused.  Today, let us take a look at that humor, starting with the first of the series, Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988).

The beginning of Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! could also confuse, particularly based on the subtitle.  You see many of the villains among world leaders of the late 1980s sitting around a table and conversing on how to carry out their evil designs.  Then, in bursts Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) of the Police Squad.  Among the many Three Stooges antics he pulls to thwart this cabal are wiping off the mark on Mikhail Gorbachev’s (David Llyod Austin) balding head, and slapping the turban off Ayatollah Khomeini (Charles Gherardi) revealing an orange mohawk.  This, along with the opening credits featuring a police siren roaring through a number of impossible scenes, set the tone for the rest of the movie.  The lynchpin for the rest features Detective Norberg (O. J. Simpson), working undercover at the Los Angeles docks, boarding a ship called “I Luv You,” and discovering a huge drug shipment.  Those aboard the ship are not keen on Norberg busting their activities, and shoot him several times.  He then falls into a number of other improbable, but painful items before splashing down in the water.  The next day, Frank returns from dealing with international terrorism, mistakes a press conference for him that is meant for “Weird Al” Yankovic (Himself), and heads to the hospital where Norberg is miraculously alive.  Though Frank inadvertently ends up causing more pain for Norberg, Frank vows to find whoever is responsible.  His first clue is a picture of the boat Norberg found.  It leads him to Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbán), a wealthy business owner and philanthropist.  Vincent has also recently been named to be the host for the upcoming visit of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles).  When Frank pays a visit to Vincent’s office, the business owner is shocked to hear of the troubles at the dock, and offers his assistant, the beautiful Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), to help with the investigations.  Frank and Jane hit it off immediately.  Vincent, who is soon revealed to be plotting an assassination of the Queen, encourages Jane’s interest in Frank in order to gain information on what the police know about his activities.  She does not know of Vincent’s ulterior motives, and the romance that blossoms between her and Frank is hilarious, but genuine (and mildly inappropriate).  At the same time, we learn that Vincent has developed a means of making people into unwilling assassins with a mind control device attached to the potential killer.  He uses this to attempt to murder Norberg, but this is stopped by Frank.  Unfortunately, the killer is blown up through a series of unlikely explosions, leaving Frank with no leads.  His next move is to break into Vincent’s office to look for evidence, but this ends disastrously when his bumbling starts a fire, and he must flee out the window.  He had found proof of Vincent’s plan, but it went up in the blaze.  Instead, he tries to confront Vincent directly, but it happens at the Queen’s official reception.  Before Frank can get to Vincent, he mistakes a Revolutionary-era rifle that Vincent is presenting to Her Majesty as an assassin’s weapon, and unceremoniously tackles the sitting monarch of the United Kingdom.  The lurid publicity ends up getting Frank suspended.  Further, he believes that Jane is switching her affections to Vincent.  All the same, he cannot let go of the case, and decides to sneak into Dodger Stadium (they say it is not, but it is) where the queen is set to watch a baseball game.  First, he disguises himself as the opera singer set to give the National Anthem, but he is chased away after his horrible rendition.  Next, he dons the uniform of the home plate umpire, and uses it to search the players as they come to bat, a tip given him by a recalcitrant Jane.  When the seventh inning stretch comes, Vincent triggers the assassin, who turns out to be Reggie Jackson (Himself).  Frank wrestles the baseball player to the ground, and a brawl ensues between the two teams.  Vincent then attempts to escape, kidnapping Jane while he is at it.  Frank catches up, and in the process Vincent gets thrown out the stadium and trampled in the street below.  Unfortunately, this activates Jane as a killer, her target being Frank.  It is Frank’s admission of his love for Jane that prevents her from carrying out the attack, and they all live happily ever after.

You watch Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, despite the innuendo, because it is a funny send up of a lot of cop movie tropes.  It is crass at times, but it never gets too crude to handle.  There are some films that ratchet up the inappropriateness in order to produce laughs.  I have never been a fan of this tactic, and most of the jokes in today’s film are of the pun variety.  These days we call those “dad jokes,” as if that is a pejorative.  I am of that age, so I find it (mostly) funny.  As such, it is hard to find a serious point on which to hang my Catholic analysis.  What I will go with is the final scene where Frank talks the hypnotized Jane out of putting a bullet in her lover.  It is played straight, though with a few humorous references thrown in to keep the chuckles at the surface.  Yet, it illustrates a key facet of Christian faith.  God is love.  God is the definition of love.  Any way you want to think of that wonderful feeling that fills you with all that is good in life, God is the author of it.  He is the Progenitor.  It is that upon which Christianity is founded.  One of the phrases we use in describing love is that it conquers all.  It has its roots in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13 to be more precise, though I believe this is one, among many, that people forget as to its source.  In the film, love overcomes Jane’s desire to commit the act which she had been hypnotized to do.  It does not make a lot of sense in terms of the mechanics and how they are explained in the movie.  Then again, this is a comedy, and I will always care more about the philosophy.

Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is still funny, for the most part, after over thirty years since its release.  That is a bit hard to wrap the brain around.  As has been alluded to already, there are parts of it that are inappropriate, either by Catholic or modern societal standards.  There is a scene of premarital sex between Frank and Jane, and they are both wearing full body condoms.  It is meant to be humorous, though my Catholic sensibilities were a little offended.  There is some mild racism as well.  Otherwise, it is a quick, fun movie that can lighten a day.

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