You probably passed it by in the theaters, and with that awful ad slogan (”The Mother of All Movies!”), no one’s going to blame you. But here are seven good reasons why you should rent Hot Shots!:
1. Because it’s really silly and doesn’t mean a thing.
Now that the ”serious season” is here and you’ve paid good money to see Cape Fear, JFK, and/or Grand Canyon, you need a movie that wears inanity like a badge of pride.
2. Because Jim Abrahams deserves a break.
Once part of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker (ZAZ) team responsible for Airplane!, director-cowriter Abrahams hasn’t had the Zuckers’ luck. David Zucker struck gold by turning the TV flop Police Squad into the Naked Gun movie series. His brother Jerry Zucker broke away from comedy with a little project called Ghost. Here’s what Abrahams has been up to: 1988’s Big Business, a wheezy mixed-twins farce beloved solely by Bette Midler fans, and 1990’s Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, a nice little movie that suffered the fate of virtually all nice little movies — total oblivion. Abrahams wisely retrenched to gonzo parody for this film, but his timing couldn’t have been worse. Hot Shots! hit theaters one month after the mega-hyped Naked Gun 2 1/2, when critics and audiences apparently had had their fill of ZAZ-style comedy for one summer. Grosses were respectable, but Shots! was generally perceived as an also-ran in the box office marathon.
3. Because it nails movies that deserve to be nailed.
It’s interesting that we’ve had to wait until the morning-after realities of the Bush administration for a satire of Top Gun, perhaps the ultimate Reagan-era flick. Just to keep things current, though, we first meet the hero of Hot Shots!, Topper Harley ) (Charlie Sheen), in a Native American village in which Kevin Costner would feel quite at home. Harley’s Indian name is ”Tuka-chinchilla”; it translates as ”Fluffy Bunny Feet.”
4. Because it’s a lot funnier than Naked Gun 21/2.
Did you get the feeling, watching Leslie Nielsen and company go through the sequel paces, that you were watching air leak slowly out of a tire? Parody’s tougher the second time around — the very existence of a sequel implies that somebody took it seriously — and 2 1/2 relies largely on broad physical gags that don’t have much to do with the plot. Hot Shots! has its share of misfired jokes and retro slapstick, of course, but the pratfalls feel like part of a larger, fresher idea.
5. Because it opens up entire new career possibilities for Brat Packers. Until now, the ZAZ team and its components have specialized in reviving the careers of bad actors from the 1960s: Leslie Nielsen, Robert Goulet, Robert Stack. Hot Shots! applies this approach to bad actors from the 1980s, and the results are inspired. Charlie Sheen acts exactly the same here as he did in the wretched 1990 war film Navy SEALs, and that’s why he’s perfect. Cary Elwes plays Sheen’s rival like Errol Flynn in too-tight underwear, and Valeria Golino is appropriately moony as the base psychiatrist-lounge singer-love interest. With all that, the old guys still take the field: Lloyd Bridges is such a stitch as a senile, leather-lunged admiral that you begin to snicker whenever you see him coming.
6. Because it makes using the VCR remote fun. The Hot Shots! script, by Abrahams and Pat Proft, is like one of those old Firesign Theater records — so chock-full of throwaways that you’re bound to miss a few gems the first time through. Some prime replay moments: the Native American dialogue between Topper and his spiritual mentor and the rather remarkable stunt involving Golino and a stuffed olive during the ersatz 9 1/2 Weeks sex montage. And the Chihuahua. I still haven’t figured out the Chihuahua.
7. Because it makes excellent brownie topping. A-