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Should I Watch..? 'Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult'

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

Film's poster

Film's poster

What's the big deal?

Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult is a comedic cop parody film released in 1994 and is the third and final entry of The Naked Gun series, itself based on the short-lived TV show Police Squad! created by David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. The film sees incompetent cop Frank Drebin return to assist his former colleagues to help drag down a bomber intending to attack the Academy Awards ceremony. The film stars Leslie Nielsen, George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley, Fred Ward, Anna Nicole Smith, Kathleen Freeman and OJ Simpson in his final screen role before his infamous murder trial. Directed by Peter Segal for the first time in the series, the film is littered with cameos as well as the usual collection of sight gags, one liners and slapstick comedy. Unlike the other films in the series, the critics were more divided on the merits of this third film and audiences seemed to agree with global earnings around $122 million - the lowest amount in the series so far.

Forgettable

Trailer

What's it about?

Detective Frank Drebin, star of specialised crime unit Police Squad, has now retired and settled down in happy marriage with the love of his life, Jane Spencer. Unfortunately, Frank is ill-suited to his new life of being a house husband and yearns for the days for fighting crime alongside his old colleagues Captain Ed Hocken and Detective Nordberg. Sensing Frank's unease, Jane suggests they attend couple therapy but things don't go well. And they get even worse when Nordberg and Hocken ask Frank to help them with their latest case.

After Jane leaves after suspecting him of having an affair, Frank is told that serial bomber Rocco Dillon is planning his most devastating attack yet but nobody has any idea what his target is. As Frank is familiar with Rocco's girlfriend Tanya Peters from a previous investigation, a plan is hatched for Frank to go deep undercover in prison in order to earn Rocco's trust and learn the target for his schemes. But with his personal life in tatters and his usual bumbling getting in the way, can Frank stop Rocco and his monstrous mother from committing the ultimate act of extortion?

Main Cast

ActorRole

Leslie Nielsen

Frank Drebin

Priscilla Presley

Jane Spencer Drebin

George Kennedy

Capt. Ed Hocken

OJ Simpson

Det. Fred Nordberg

Fred Ward

Rocco Dillon

Kathleen Freeman

Muriel Dillon

Anna Nicole Smith

Tanya Peters

Technical Info

*based on the TV show 'Police Squad!' created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker

DirectorPeter Segal

Screenplay

Pat Proft, David Zucker & Robert LoCash*

Running Time

83 minutes

Release Date (UK)

20th May, 1994

Rating

12

Genre

Comedy, Crime

Razzie Awards

Worst New Star (Smith), Worst Supporting Actor (Simpson)

Nielsen returns once again as Frank Drebin and is always enjoyable as the bumbling cop on the case.

Nielsen returns once again as Frank Drebin and is always enjoyable as the bumbling cop on the case.

What's to like?

Most films of this type do tend to get repetitive the more films in the franchise (I don't know anyone who would recommend the likes of Scary Movie 5, for example) so it's actually a great credit that The Final Insult generates as many laughs as it does. Nielsen already makes the film worth a watch as cinema's greatest cop klutz, Frank Drebin. Maintaining a straight face during some on-screen zaniness is Nielsen's greatest strength and he is still excellent in the lead. And while he gets plenty of support from Kennedy, Presley and newcomer to the series Ward, there's no doubt that this is still Nielsen's show and that's fine with me. He is just as goofy and enjoyable as he was in the earlier films and there wasn't much wrong with them.

The film's best scenes are the opening, which pays tribute / sends up The Untouchables, and the climax of the film when things get delightfully silly as the film pokes fun at Hollywood's infuriating habit of patting itself on the back. Having said that, the film is a notable step back from the humour of the first two films. The narrative isn't as sharp although the dialogue still has plenty of zingers to enjoy and you'll still have to watch it at least twice to catch all the funnies in the film. And celeb spotters will be relishing the opportunity to catch all of the cameos contained within from the obvious ones like Weird Al Yankovic (but he's in every one of these movies!) to the more surprising such as film director Paul Feig, the man behind films like Bridesmaids and Spy.

Fun Facts

  • Raye Birk plays the part of Papshmir, a villain from the first film who was the lead terrorist responsible for planning the assassination of Queen Elizabeth II and was beaten up by Drebin in that film's opening sequence.
  • The film's original title was going to be Naked Gun 33 1/3: Just For The Record as the numeric referred to the number of revolutions of long-play vinyl records. However, the title was changed as it was feared that audiences wouldn't get the joke.
  • Although The Naked Gun series was always planned as a trilogy, David Zucker and Pat Proft later worked on a potential fourth film in the early Noughties which would have seen Drebin teamed up with a younger female colleague and be called Naked Gun 444.4. However, the pair then started working on Scary Movie 3 and the subsequent films in that series instead.

What's not to like?

As I've said, this film marks a steep decline of the quality of the series which had only dipped a little in the second film The Smell Of Fear. But this film's story feels weak and for much of it, the film's pace drops a lot. Freeman's inclusion as Rocco's equally criminal mother Muriel feels like a throwback to the similar role played by Anne Ramsey in The Goonies while the surgically enhanced, Marilyn Monroe-wannabe Smith is about as good as you'd imagine in the role of femme fatale Tanya. I also didn't like the direction of the film taken by Segal who takes a more scattershot approach to the jokes as opposed to keeping the first film's focus on parodying police procedurals. It feels closer to the likes of Hot Shots! than the first Naked Gun film.

Of course, there is some overlap with the other films and fans will quickly identify which jokes have been recycled, dusted off and reused. And that's kinda the problem with The Final Insult - it doesn't feel as organic or natural as before. The cameos feel slightly forced and, frankly, unnecessary - give me more sight gags in the background or zippy jokes rather than people who (as a non-American) I don't particularly care much for. Yanks will appreciate seeing the likes of Pia Zadora and Florence Henderson (well, possibly) more than I ever would. I really enjoyed the first two films but this feels laboured and rather uninspired by comparison. You can't fault Nielsen for trying but overall, this is without doubt the weakest of the three films and a sad end for such a once revered series.

Weird Al Yankovic also returns for his obligatory cameo, one of many celebrities roped in for a quick gag.

Weird Al Yankovic also returns for his obligatory cameo, one of many celebrities roped in for a quick gag.

Should I watch it?

If you've never seen any of the Naked Gun films then perhaps The Final Insult may serve as an introduction to this frantic style of comedy. But long-time fans of the series will be disappointed as this film lacks much of the energy, humour and fun on display in the two previous films. Nielsen is still timeless as Frank Drebin and the film doesn't impact the character's cinematic reputation too much. But the oft-mentioned Law Of Diminishing Returns is very much in effect, I'm afraid. This isn't the worst spoof movie out there but given what came before, it's nothing but a let-down.

Great For: anyone who isn't familiar with The Naked Gun brand, celebrity spotters, immature audiences

Not So Great For: fans of the earlier movies, expectations, furthering actor's careers

What else should I watch?

Airplane!

Oh, you wanted more recommendations? Very well, the initial Naked Gun film is a superb spoof of all cop-clichés and introduced Drebin to an unsuspecting audience unused to his cack-handed brand of chaos. The character may be a more straight-faced version of Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau who completely stole the show in the 1963 original version of The Pink Panther and dominated the franchise forever more. But for me, Drebin is every bit as silly and enjoyable but more recognisable as a cop rather than Sellers' excessively French caricature. Other comedic cops in films include the bickering banter of Riggs and Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon series which plays well against the more violent aspects of the film while Eddie Murphy's role in Beverly Hills Cop, Axel Murphy, has gone down in history as one of law's most motormouthed officers.

Ever since he broke out his funny bone in Airplane!, Nielsen was typecast in comic roles for pretty much the rest of his career. His last dramatic role came in 1987 in Barbra Streisand's legal drama Nuts and after that, he would spend the rest of his career capitalising on his newfound comic persona. Sadly, many of these effort fell well short of his earlier successes - films like Repossessed, Spy Hard and Mr Magoo were all critically reviled and did not found much favour from audiences either. Even teaming up with fellow comedy great Mel Brooks for his vampire-flavoured parody Dracula: Dead And Loving It proved ill-advised, despite the pedigree behind it.

© 2021 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 20, 2021:

I love this film! It's such a classic.

Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on March 20, 2021:

Fans of the Zucker brothers and Abrahams might also be interested in The Kentucky Fried Movie, which they wrote and John Landis directed. The sketch movie parodied all sorts of movie genres, as well as ads and TV news. This interesting film will give viewers a look at what was to come when the trio also called the shots.

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