Reviewing "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult" is a bit like reviewing a joke book--you don't want to give away the jokes. Some of the gags are side-splitters, some just sit on the screen.
But the film would have to be a great deal worse to prevent "Naked Gun" die-hards from lining up. It is, after all, the movie that finally confirms what we suspected all along--Leslie Nielsen's Lt. Frank Drebin looks exactly like Phil Donahue from the back.
Drebin is retired in this third series installment but a mysterious bomb plot brings him back into action. He's also having marital problems with his wife, Jane (Priscilla Presley)--and no movie hero was ever less suggestive to marriage counseling than the blank-faced Drebin.
He's in his deadpan element going undercover to root out terrorists. Stops along the way include a maximum-security prison, a sperm bank--he becomes a heavy donor--and finally the Academy Awards show. The Oscars have never been trashed in quite this way in a movie before, though the Oscar show itself has often come close. The shenanigans go on for too long, but, then again, so does the telecast. It's hard-edged realism, "Naked Gun"-style.
The usual faces turn up again, including George Kennedy and O.J. Simpson, and a few new ones too, like Fred Ward as a square-jawed baddie; Guess? jeans model Anna Nicole Smith, whose pneumatic enticements threaten to smother Drebin; and Ellen Greene, in a way-too-small cameo. (Greene is a great comic actress in a cast of Great Pretenders.) The regulars all have the good humor of performers who know they're playing out an annuity.
Director Peter Segal is new to the series--he's new to feature-film directing--and he doesn't vary much from the formula. He keeps the gags popping, and there are always funny little doodles taking place in the corner of the frame (like the convict who pole vaults to safety during a prison yard scene). There are also a couple of misfires. We don't really need a joke involving a black prisoner in a riot imploring us with the words, "Can't we all get along?" That's the real world.
"Naked Gun 33 1/3," of course, functions best in the fake one. One hopes this "Insult" won't be final.
'Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult'
Leslie Nielsen: Lt. Frank Drebin
Priscilla Presley: Jane Spencer
George Kennedy: Ed Hocken
O.J. Simpson: Nordberg
Paramount Pictures presents a David Zucker production, released by Paramount Pictures. Director Peter Segal. Producers Robert K. Weiss and David Zucker. Executive producers Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams and Gil Netter. Screenplay by Pat Proft and David Zucker & Robert LoCash. Cinematographer Robert Stevens. Costumes Mary Vogt. Editor James R. Symons. Music Ira Newborn. Production design Lawrence G. Paull. Art director, Bruce Crone, Set decorator, Kathe Clopp. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.
MPAA rating: PG-13, for off - color humor. Times guidelines: It includes shoot-out involving baby carriages that may frighten the very young.
* In general release throughout Southern California.