THAT’S NOT ROTTEN! ‘Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear’ Was the Last Great Spoof

GameStop, Inc.


There was a time when the spoof film was more than just lazy pop culture references heaped upon one another. It may seem unthinkable to anyone raised in the era of Scary Movie and Friedberg and Seltzer. In a recent piece for the Dissolve, Nathan Rabin pinpoints Hot Shots! as the point of decline. If that’s true (and I have no inclination to argue against it), the last hurrah of the spoof genre came one month before the opening of Hot Shots! with the arrival of The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear.

David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker basically created the spoof genre. At first finding success adapting their live sketches for the movies with Kentucky Fried Movie, directed by John Landis, the trio was given their chance to write and direct their own film. That film, Airplane!, was a box office smash and birthed a new form of comedy. The trio then took their unique brand of style to network television, albeit for a very brief time. Debuting in 1982, Police Squad! introduced the world to Frank Drebin, Leslie Nielsen as a hapless, hard boiled policeman – part Joe Friday, part “Dirty” Harry Callahan, entirely incompetent. Having only 6 episodes produced, Police Squad! was cancelled after only 4 episodes aired. It has been reported that ABC president Tony Thomopoulos said the show was cancelled because people would have to pay attention to get all the jokes.

As happens with these things, Police Squad! amassed a cult following, and 6 years after its cancellation, Frank Drebin was back in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. A smash hit, Naked Gun was the 8th highest grossing movie of 1988, just behind Die Hard. So, of course, there would be a sequel.


Barbara Bush gags: as funny now as they were then.

Before Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker revived Frank Drebin, the trio had already started going their separate ways. The trio shared their final directing credit with 1986’s Ruthless People. And though all three contributed to the screenplay for Naked Gun, David Zucker was the sole director. Abrahams directed the Bette Midler film Big Business before helming Hot Shots!. Jerry Zucker found success directing dramas, most notably Ghost. For Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, David Zucker would direct the script co-written with Pat Proft, creator of the Police Academy series and writer on a number of spoof of varying quality.

Whereas comedy sequels are usually an inferior product, placing all their efforts in putting characters into the exact same situation, Naked Gun 2½ has a unique advantage since nothing onscreen is beholden to things like logic or continuity. The secret for all of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker films is the fact that all the actors play their roles straight. Like when Drebin explains the difficulties of carrying on an investigation, “It’s like having sex. It’s a painstaking and arduous task that seems to go on and on forever, and just when you think things are going your way, nothing happens.” Crazy things happen all around the characters but they rarely bat an eye, nobody winking at the camera. The background is populated with gags that aren’t given any extra attention, they’re just that – background. If a certain gag doesn’t make you laugh, give it a second because the next one will hit.

Like the best spoofs, Naked Gun 2½ isn’t a spoof a particular film, instead it’s a broad satire of cop show and movie clichés. Unlike Friedberg and Seltzer movies, who’ll base jokes around the already forgotten Johnny Depp iteration of Willy Wonka, Naked Gun 2½ rarely ventures into super-specific pop culture gags. The brief spoof of the love scene in Ghost is David Zucker needling his brother, not simply exploiting a reference for cheap laughs. Having Lloyd Bochner screaming, “It’s a cookbook,” as he did in the famous Twilight Zone episode, isn’t a gag based upon a brief cultural fad, but one of the most iconic moments of an iconic television program, and maybe lasts all of 30 seconds.


Though it dabbles in topical political humor, Naked Gun 2½ stands out because of how relevant some of its political thought is to this day. President George H.W. Bush is about to implement a new energy policy for the nation, relying on the opinion of Dr. Albert S. Meinheimer (Richard Griffiths), who will advocate solar and wind. The vested special interest of nuclear, oil, and coal are planning to kidnap Dr. Meinheimer and replace him with a doppelganger. This environmentalist streak runs the risk of being dated, however, it now serves as a sad reminder to how little has changed in regards to domestic energy policy.

Like its predecessor, Naked Gun 2½ excels at balancing stunt casting and legitimate casting. Like the casting of Ricardo Montalban in the first film, casting Robert Goulet as the villain presents a bridge between the film’s inherent absurdity and the classical Hollywood of old. Reprising their roles from the first film are Priscilla Presley and O.J. Simpson, the Naked Gun films being O.J.’s last film roles before, well, you know. It makes for an interesting viewing experience watching Oscar winner George Kennedy bounce lines off of a retired football player/future felon. There are also cameos from Zsa Zsa Gabor, mocking an incident where she slapped a police officer, Mel Tormé, and, as with every Naked Gun Film, Weird Al Yankovic.


Who is handsomer than Mel Tormé? Frank Drebin.

Also like its predecessor, The Naked Gun 2½ was a massive hit, the 10th highest grossing film of 1991. Its success was bittersweet, marking the end of an era. Jim Abrahams would find solo success with Hot Shots! and its sequel, but hasn’t directed another feature since 1998’s dreadful Jane Austen’s Mafia!. Despite the success of Ghost, Jerry Zucker hasn’t directed a feature since 2001’s Rat Race. Finally, there’s the curious case of David Zucker, who has continued working in the spoof genre with the awful, yet profitable, Scary Movie 3 and 4. But things took an odd turn when Zucker, formerly an environmentalist liberal, shifted his political beliefs towards conservatism and directed the right-wing spoof An American Carol. To paraphrase a bit from an episode of Seinfeld, I’m not offended by its politics, I’m offended because it’s not funny. It’s a spoof film where, and I’m not joking, Chris Farley’s brother plays a Michael Moore-type blowhard who is given the Christmas Carol treatment by the ghost of General Patton, played by Kelsey Grammer. It’s a political comedy that seems to have been written backwards, jokes written around ideological talking points.

There was another Naked Gun film, 33 1/3: The Final Insult. When compared to what constitutes a modern spoof, it’s a comedy gem; but when compared to its predecessors, it leaves a lot to be desired. Not all hope is lost in the spoof genre. The recent works of Phillip Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 22 Jump Street) carry on the tradition of good spoof films, employing the clichés while satirizing them. Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz may actually the best spoof of all-time, if you consider it a spoof. On top of the witty dialogue and open commentary on contemporary action films, Wright uses the very style of those he’s satirizing, making cinematic form a part of the joke. These works are funny and vibrant, and likely to have a lasting shelf life like Airplane! or The Naked Gun. While not as great as its forefather, The Naked Gun 2½ is still a comedy riot. It’s only missing one thing: Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln.


Anytime Costumes


  1. horror August 4, 2014 Reply

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Eric Bana Talks ‘Force of Nature: The Dry 2’ – Interview

Eric Bana Returns for the sequel to ‘The Dry‘ in ‘Force...

Letitia Wright’s Talks about her Latest Film ‘Aisha’ – Interview

Letitia Wright’s latest film, ‘Aisha‘, a story about immigration, resilience, friendship...

Blake Crouch and Matt Tolmach Talk ‘Dark Matter’ Coming to AppleTV+ – Interview

‘Dark Matter‘ a science fiction thriller series based on the novel...

Event News Event Reviews
Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Takes You to A Whole New World at Segerstrom – Review

Disney’s Aladdin takes the audience on a thrilling chase and a wonderous place...

Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach on The Queen Mary this Halloween

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach for the...

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice’ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the Arts – Review

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice‘ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part something: Hermione and the Mini-gun pt 2

Have a lead salad instead!

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part ?: Hermione and the mini-gun pt 1

It can't fire more than 6,000 per minute!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse: Kurt v Sid – HASTA!

Hasta La Vista Baby!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...