Should I Watch..? 'The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear'

Updated on August 1, 2020
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Film's poster
Film's poster | Source

What's the big deal?

The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell Of Fear is a comedy film released in 1991 and is the second installment in The Naked Gun series. Based on the short-lived TV sitcom Police Squad, the film follows the misadventures of bumbling police officer Frank Drebin who finds himself involved personally and professionally in a bombing campaign against a prominent environmentalist. The film stars Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, OJ Simpson, former guest star on the show Robert Goulet and Richard Griffiths. The film was directed by series co-creator David Zucker (who also co-wrote the screenplay) while his associates Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker served as executive producers. The film was followed by a third film, The Final Insult, in 1994. Although the film received a more mixed reception than the first film, the film still went on to earn $86.9 million in the US.


4 stars for The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear

What's it about?

While Lt. Frank Drebin is being honoured by President George Bush at the White House, his personal life has fallen apart as the love of his life, Jane Spencer, has left him and now works at the prestigious Meinheimer research centre for renewable energy. As for Professor Meinheimer himself, he is busy preparing recommendations for President Bush for a forthcoming important policy announcement regarding the future of energy in the US - a speech that has the heads of the coal, oil and nuclear industries very worried indeed.

After a bomb explodes at the Meinheimer centre, Drebin crosses paths with Jane once again as she was witness to a suspect fleeing the scene in a van. But Drebin quickly learns that Jane has moved on as he soon meets her new boyfriend, Hexagon Oil executive Quentin Hapsburg. While Drebin becomes consumed with jealousy, both he and Jane are unaware of Hapsburg's ultimate scheme - he has kidnapped Dr Meinheimer and plans to replace him with a duplicate who will endorse the use of fossil fuels instead of renewable energy...


Main Cast

Leslie Nielsen
Lt. Frank Drebin
George Kennedy
Capt. Ed Hocken
Priscilla Presley
Jane Spencer
Robert Goulet
Quentin Hapsburg
Richard Griffiths
Dr. Albert Meinheimer / Earl Hacker
OJ Simpson
Det. Nordberg
Jacqueline Brookes
Commissioner Anabell Brumford
Anthony James
Hector Savage

Technical Info

David Zucker
David Zucker & Pat Proft*
Running Time
85 mins
Release Date (UK)
28th June, 1991
Comedy, Crime
*based on the TV series 'Police Squad!' created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker
Griffiths brings his comedic talent to the series in the dual role of Dr Meinheimer and his evil impersonator, Earl Hacker.
Griffiths brings his comedic talent to the series in the dual role of Dr Meinheimer and his evil impersonator, Earl Hacker. | Source

What's to like?

For any fans of the first Naked Gun movie or indeed the original show, you probably don't need me to tell you that this film is more of the same. Packed with silly sight gags, deadpan one-liners and more meta humour than you'd find in either of the Deadpool movies, The Smell Of Fear is a suitably silly follow-up to the beloved original. As always, this is largely thanks to Leslie Nielsen's superb performance as the incompetent Drebin, a cinematic cop so funny that he edges Peter Sellers' equally silly Clouseau from the Pink Panther films into second place. The comedy flows from the film like a burst dam and while it might lack the potency of the first film, there is still much in this movie to enjoy like Drebin's barbed but immature conversations with Hapsburg or the unfortunate series of events that sees Nordberg unexpectedly end up in Detroit.

Like other ZAZ films such as Top Secret!, the film isn't afraid of anything and is exhaustive in its efforts to get you to laugh. Not all of it works but you can't criticise the film for a lack of trying and if I'm honest, the success rate of gags in this film is still considerably higher than it is in other spoofs such as Hot Shots or Scary Movie. And Nielsen isn't the only star shining with the material - Presley and Kennedy have brilliantly written characters with dialogue to match Drebin's goofiness while Goulet is suitably smooth as the sophisticated socialite, even if he does tread in Ricardo Montalban's shoes from the first film. Griffiths, however, excels as Dr Meinheimer who seems to be the only sensible person on screen but who still ends up pulling wheelies in his wheelchair, flying in front of the moon ET-style and being just as silly as the repulsive red-necked Hacker.

Fun Facts

  • Like the rest of the films in the series, Weird Al Yankovic appears in a cameo although he actually plays a thug at the police station instead of himself. The part called for Yankovic to hold the station up before Drebin comes through a door and knocks him out. After sixteen takes, Yankovic admitted that his leg had turned a nice shade of purple and the stunt coordinator then asked him if he wanted to wear some padding.
  • The love scene between Frank and Jane involves a pottery wheel at some point, an obvious dig at the famous love scene from Ghost from the year before. That film was directed by Jerry Zucker, the brother and long-time associate of director David Zucker. David also appears in this film in a cameo - he is Davy Crockett at the police shootout scene.
  • The famous opening credits, set atop a police squad's flashing lights and involved in a number of unlikely pursuits, ends with Zsa Zsa Gabor slapping the police car. This spoofs a real-life incident in 1989 where Gabor was arrested for slapping a police officer and driving without a valid licence in Beverly Hills.

What's not to like?

In truth, there isn't much to find fault with. Obviously, whether the film works as a comedy or not depends very much on your sense of humour so if these silly parodies don't do it for you then it's unlikely that The Smell Of Fear will change your mind. It is noticeably less amusing than the first film or even the increasingly revered Airplane! that brought international recognition to the ZAZ team. And I said before, certain elements feel recycled from the first film such as Hapsburg's character being a retread of the villain from before. Compared to Airplane!, the film lacks some of the edginess and daring humour we enjoyed before - in fact, the most shocking thing about the movie these days is the appearance of a pre-murder trial OJ Simpson reprising his role as Nordberg.

If I'm being hypercritical then I could accuse the film of feeling focused and more scattershot than its predecessor. One thing that is noticeable is the aforementioned spoof of the love scene in Ghost - personally, I feel that if a parody has to rely on aping more successful or popular movies at the time then it doesn't work. Anyone can poke fun at other films and it feels a little too immature for my tastes but consider that neither Airplane! or the original Naked Gun had such scenes. But regardless, how can you criticise a film that doesn't just make you laugh but laugh again on repeat viewings? There's so much to enjoy here that you're better off watching it again just to catch everything.

The film retains much of the original's zaniness thanks to a pitch perfect delivery from Leslie Nielsen as the hapless Drebin.
The film retains much of the original's zaniness thanks to a pitch perfect delivery from Leslie Nielsen as the hapless Drebin. | Source

Should I watch it?

The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell Of Fear is a decent enough follow-up to one of the best spoof comedies ever made but falls just short in terms of originality and jokes. Nevertheless, the film is still miles better than countless other parody films that followed in its wake including the weaker third film, The Final Insult. Nielsen's career revival as the ultimate deadpan comic actor continued with this silly and childish sequel that pushed nearly all of this viewer's buttons.

Great For: fans of spoof films or ZAZ comedies, fans of the TV show, political lookalikes in showbusiness

Not So Great For: overly serious critics, anyone who doesn't have a childish side, oil industry executives

What else should I watch?

The team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (usually abbreviated to ZAZ) have been producing slapstick comedies and parody films since they wrote the 1977 sketch comedy film The Kentucky Fried Movie. But the trio struck solid gold on their first studio attempt - not only was Airplane! a witty and outright hilarious parody of many disaster movies from the Seventies but also a runaway hit with audiences and critics alike, many of whom had never seen anything quite like it. While their TV debut Police Squad! was cancelled after just one six episode season, it did provide the inspiration for the Naked Gun movies which proved to be their most successful series to date.

In fact, the trio were so successful that parody films suddenly sprung up everywhere and became a genre in their own right. But few matched the comedic standard ZAZ had set and even Nielsen, by now considered the king of spoofs, struggled to match the success he enjoyed as Drebin. Trapped by typecasting, Nielsen appeared in films such as Wrongfully Accused and Spy Hard while his appearance in Mel Brooks' final film to date Dracula: Dead And Loving It was also a disappointment. Other films actually worth a look include the fantastic Team America: World Police which introduces heavy political commentary alongside marionette puppetry and the British action crime comedy Hot Fuzz, the second film in the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.

© 2020 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)