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‘Hot Shots!’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 02, 1991


Jim Abrahams
Charlie Sheen;
Cary Elwes;
Valeria Golino;
Lloyd Bridges;
Kevin Dunn;
Jon Cryer;
Wiliam O'Leary;
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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"Hot Shots!" is socially unredeeming, despicable, in poor taste and utterly ridiculous. That's what makes it so funny. It's also what makes it not funny. This parody of World War II plane films and the round of "Top Gun"-type pictures is a hit-or-miss affair. Sometimes you're chuckling, even laughing uproariously. The next minute, you're just as likely to roll your eyes.

Created by two of the four people who gave you "Kentucky Fried Movie," "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" the movie's nowhere near the inspired funniness of its predecessors. But it often displays the same spirit. It's strung end to end with sight gags. Some fall flat on their faces. But, by sheer weight of numbers, many of them work. It depends on your ability to lower yourself into -- or steer stoically clear of -- the idiocy pit.

When it hits, however, it hits. Picture this -- and chances are the previews spoiled it for you anyway: Air jock pilot Charlie Sheen is seducing hot babe Valeria Golino. She lies naked before him, her chest taut and hot. Very hot. When Sheen lets an ice cube drip on her, the water sizzles. He cracks an egg and drops it on her stomach. It starts to fry. He slaps down two rashers of bacon. Then he pulls out a spatula . . . . Sheen, assuming the plot matters, is the son continued on next page of a pilot who died in disgrace. He's been living in tortured retreat (in a tepee), weathering a peculiar psychological condition described as Paternal Conflict Syndrome. Out of the blue, he's called upon to join an elite U.S. Navy flying mission, which includes pilots Cary Elwes and Jon Cryer and buffoonish Admiral Lloyd Bridges. Sheen finds himself falling for leggy Golino, the base psychiatrist, as well as caught in a dastardly plot by arms manufacturers to ruin the mission.

"Hot Shots!" merely dresses men up in uniform and tears stripes off their dignity. It lacks a hidden ingredient, a structural punch. (It also indulges in unwarranted Arab bashing -- a slur it wouldn't dare make on any other ethnic group.) The problem is, half of the creative team (which also created the wonderful TV parody "Police Squad!") is missing. The movie's directed by Jim Abrahams, who co-writes with Pat Proft. But Zucker brothers Jerry and David are definitely MIA. It shows. The project feels like a Zucker Brothers rerun -- a slapdash, second-generation effort. On his own, Abrahams didn't exactly display smoldering, directorial prowess in "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael" and "Big Business." Much of "Hot Shots!" has traces of Proft's sillier-rather-than-funny creation, "Police Academy."

Another problem for the movie is timing, or lack thereof. At this point, air-jock movies such as "Top Gun," "The Right Stuff" and "Navy SEALs" are long since gone from U.S. screens -- film and video. However, if "Hot Shots!" helps perpetuate that absence in any way, then this satirical mission was not totally in vain.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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