The Naked Gun gets a reboot

Posted: December 16, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
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Someday someone will remake The Godfather and then that will sort of end everything. A public that could forgive remakes of Footloose, Planet of the Apes, The Pink Panther and so many more will riot when word leaks about a modern retelling of the Corleone family. “In part 2,” says a studio insider — and yes, The Godfather Part II will also get remade — “Michael, instead of relocating the family to Nevada, will take the Corleones out of New York and to Silicon Valley. There are a lot of exciting possibilities.” Congress may step in.

Until then we’ll get more and more remakes, everyone looking to the past in an unknown present. The latest one that makes people nervous? The Naked Gun is getting a reboot.

Ed Helms will star as Frank Drebin, the role made famous by Leslie Nielsen in the TV show Police Squad and The Naked Gun films. Helms seems like the type of actor who can pull it off, but he’s in an impossible situation because like all of these movies and roles — especially the beloved ones — he’ll be measured against the past and in this case, Nielsen’s genius portrayal of the bumbling Drebin. To me it’s not so much that studios risk sullying our memories of the original when they remake a movie — even if the new Naked Gun is terrible, it won’t ruin my memories of the first films. Instead it’s unfortunate that you know there are countless new scripts and new ideas out there that won’t get made because a studio wants to bank on something of a sure thing, and getting people to revisit a classic is probably a better bet than getting them to love something new.

So we’ll see. But before the new one gets made and invades theaters and destroys memories, let’s revisit the original, which is one of the my favorites of all-time and is, I think, the funniest movie ever (with apologies to Airplane, Vacation and Fletch).

I’m sure my parents don’t remember this, but we saw The Naked Gun in the theater. We didn’t go to a ton of movies — perhaps my folks were too traumatized or felt too guilty for traumatizing me by taking us to the original Star Wars when I was 2. We actually saw it in Worthington, during a trip to southwestern Minnesota to see my grandparents. When I saw it I didn’t know anything about the original Police Squad show — it was only on for six episodes in 1982 and I only watched it when A&E replayed it years later.

I can still remember dozens — hundreds? — of lines from the first movie and that’s primarily because I’ve seen it dozens — hundreds? — of times the past 25 years. But even after that first viewing I can remember reciting lines and gags, telling friends and family. As a kid I’m sure my favorite parts included “Nice beaver,” and Drebin urinating forever in the press conference. And even as an adult the beaver joke still gets a chuckle.

But my favorite lines today? Small things.

“Yes. Well, when I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s my policy.” “That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron. You killed five actors! Good ones!”

The good ones part at the end clinches it.

Or, Drebin talking about past love:
“Ah, how I loved her, but she had her music. I think she had her music. She’d hang out with the Chicago Male Chorus and Symphony. I don’t recall her playing an instrument or being able to carry a tune. Yet she was on the road 300 days of the year. In fact, I bought her a harp for Christmas. She asked me what it was.”

Again, the ending, the way Drebin dragged out “what it waaas.”

Here’s IMDB’s list of quotes from the first movie. Every one in it can still make me laugh.

Of course the script is just one part of the movie’s genius. The remake could have great writers produce classic lines but it seems impossible to think Helms can pull off what Nielsen did. He made a scene by moving his eyebrows a certain way and possessed an obliviousness that did nothing to distract from the certainty he had that he was always right. Think about the look Drebin has when he’s behind the plate and the first pitch is delivered and he waits to make a ball or strike call. And then the eagerness on his face when he gets into his role as umpire and can’t wait for the next ball to come to the plate.

The Naked Gun — and its not as funny but still enjoyable sequels — was so good that you can watch them today and somehow not cringe whenever O.J. Simpson comes onto the screen as Nordberg. His character was a joke, not beloved, and it’s satisfying seeing him folded up in a hospital bed or launched from his wheelchair at a baseball game. I wonder if they’ll change that character’s name in the reboot.

Helms should do a fine job as the bumbling Drebin. But no matter how good the remake is, the movie will feel unnecessary and lacking. Twenty-five years later will people remember where they saw it in the theater? Will they still quote it whenever someone butchers the National Anthem? They can make a new Naked Gun. But there will always only be one Frank Drebin.

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Comments
  1. Jerry says:

    Frank singing the anthem, giving an impromptu press conference at the airport when the press was actually waiting for Weird Al Yankovic, using the restroom at the press conference for the queen, and of course being an umpire at the baseball game (with Dickie V doing the game?). All priceless but to me some of the sight gags were even better. At the baseball game watch how many runners touch second base when the pitcher gives up a home run. I didn’t catch that until about the 25th time I saw it. It can be remade but the characters are now part ingrained in so many persons memories that anything else will pale in comparison.

  2. The Cutter says:

    I agree that TNG is the funniest movie of all time, and I have also watched it many times. Understandably, I am wary of a reboot. I think Ed Helms is funny enough, but can he carry a comedy movie? Didn’t he already fail once when trying to take over for Steve Carell? Why do they think he’ll do any better now?

    • shawnfury says:

      Yeah I like him in most things, but when you combine the question of whether he can carry anything with the fact he’s trying to replace Nielsen in an iconic role…seems like a potential debacle.

  3. Rich Jensen says:

    Leslie Nielson has a fart joke on his tombstone. That’s the kind of person that role needs. So you’ve got to ask yourself: Would Ed Helms have a fart joke on his tombstone? Exactly.

  4. Mark says:

    I saw The Naked Gun near the end of my freshman year in college. There were 8 to 10 of us from my floor of the dorm who made the trip, I remember because we took 2 cars, and we’d have all piled into my buddy Kirk’s giant Chrysler if there was just 7 of us.

    I’ve always enjoyed the movie and still do, but I don’t think I’d consider it the funniest movie ever.

    However, I have never laughed so hard, out loud, in the movie theater, as I did that night.

    It was the people I was with, the mood we were in, and the fact we were happy that school was almost out.

    And I wasn’t the only one…when Drebin was umpiring and calling strikes before the ball reached home plate, I thought my roomate was going to keel over of a heart attack…I mean, we was literally in hysterics.

    What a great memory. I agree with Shawn, they can make a new Naked Gun (and I like Ed Helms, too), but there will be only one Frank Drebin.

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