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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Deux' Meets Happy-Nonsense Caliber of 'Shots!'

May 21, 1993|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the divertingly silly "Hot Shots! Part Deux" (citywide), our first glimpse of Charlie Sheen has us squinting for evidence of special-effects trickery. Surely Sheen's head has been attached via camera magic to a torso far more muscular than his own. But no, it soon becomes clear that Sheen really has been working out mightily in order to send up Sylvester Stallone and his "Rambo" movies.

Sheen's sculptured physique is virtually the only evidence of effort exerted in the making of this often hilarious film, a fizzy summer comedy concocted by director Jim Abrahams and his co-writer Pat Proft, past masters at the art of disguising their efforts. Actually, there are no fewer than 30 movies spoofed in the course of "Part Deux's" swift 89 minutes, but they come so thick and fast you can't hope to catch all the references. This film is every bit as funny--perhaps even funnier than the first "Hot Shots!" (1991), which skewered "Top Gun."

It seems that Saddam Hussein not only has taken American hostages but also captured two sets of unsuccessful rescuers. What to do but send for the one man capable of saving the day--the indomitable, hopelessly square, sober-sided Topper Harley? But first, CIA agent Michelle Rodham Huddleston (Brenda Bakke)--all the women in the film have Rodham as their middle name--must track him down in a Southeast Asian monastery, where he's in a spiritual retreat that permits him to engage regularly in violent martial arts contests for the pleasure of the locals. (And where the sex-starved monks stop at nothing to try to attract the Sharon Stonelike Michelle, who arrives in spike heels and micro-mini.)

The care with which "Hot Shots! Part Deux" has been made is revealed early on, with our introduction to Hussein (Jerry Haleva, a burly Saddam look-alike). Hussein's stronghold is fabulous, a lush aerie done in movie palace Moorish, stylish with just a soupcon of vulgarity. A mere glimpse at the contents of his refrigerator is good for laughs, and when he takes off his shirt . . .!

Abrahams and Proft's nonstop throwaway humor keeps spirits lifted and a smile on our faces, and it also has the admirable effect of deflating those action movies that exploit violence in the name of a pious, if dubious, patriotism. It would seem that it's a little late in the day to poke fun at Rambo, not exactly the most current of targets, but this is where the filmmakers' shrewdness comes into play. Abrahams and Proft are taking aim at a persistent macho mentality more than a specific movie or series. The spoofing of "Rambo" here is no more slavish than that of "Top Gun" in the first film, and each of the "Hot Shots!" takes on a life of its own.

Topper and his true love, Ramada Rodham Hayman (Valeria Golino), are back from the first film, and they are endearing in their dense but intrepid earnestness. Even more dense is Lloyd Bridges' Tug Benson, an admiral the first time around who, terrifyingly enough, is now no less than the President of the United States. One of Hussein's captives is a colonel played by Richard Crenna, who played a colonel in all three Rambo movies.

"Hot Shots! Part Deux" looks good without looking over-inflated. William A. Elliott's production design, John R. Leonetti's camera work and Basil Poledouris' score are as sharp and crisp as the actors' performances. "Hot Shots! Part Deux" (rated PG-13 for sexual spoofs and language) generates lots of happy nonsense, but there's no nonsense in its steadfast, unpretentious craftsmanship. Those who stay for the hefty end credits--yes, there is a personal trainer listed for Sheen--will be rewarded with gags strewn throughout.

'Hot Shots! Part Deux'

Charlie Sheen: Topper Harley

Lloyd Bridges: Tug Benson

Valeria Golino: Ramada Rodham Hayman

Richard Crenna: Col. Denton Walters

A 20th Century Fox presentation. Director Jim Abrahams. Producer Bill Badalato. Executive producer Pat Proft. Screenplay by Abrahams & Proft. Cinematographer John R. Leonetti. Editor Malcolm Campbell. Costumes Mary Malin. Music Basil Poledouris. Production design William A. Elliott. Art director Greg Papalia. Set designer James F. Claytor Sr. Set decorator Jerie Kelter. Sound Thomas Causey. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13 (sexual spoofs and language).

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