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‘Naked Gun 2˝: The Smell of Fear’ (PG-13)

By John F. Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 28, 1991

People with a low tolerance for cheap jokes, groan-inducing puns, stupid sight gags, goofy pratfalls, ridiculous double-entendres, dumb throwaway lines, silly dialogue, absurd situations and humongous boiled lobsters that grab women's private parts will probably not enjoy "The Naked Gun 2˝: The Smell of Fear." George Bush might not like it, either.

Everybody else, however, should find it the funniest thing since . . . well, since the last "Naked Gun" movie.

Leslie Nielsen is back as the clueless Lt. Frank Drebin, the heroically bumbling police detective who can't open a door without breaking someone's nose. And he opens a lot of doors in this movie.

At the start of "Naked Gun 2˝" Nielsen is a guest at a White House dinner, an honor he's received for shooting his 1,000th drug dealer (though he admits he backed over the last two with his car: "Luckily," he says, "they turned out to be drug dealers.")

Also supping at the White House is Dr. Albert S. Meinheimer (the roly-poly Richard Griffiths), an energy expert whom President Bush (John Roarke in a wickedly perfect imitation) has chosen to formulate the nation's energy policy. Since it's well-known that Meinheimer is a believer in such alternative energy sources as solar power, the diabolical leaders of the polluting, environment-despoiling, mutant-creating coal, oil and nuclear power industries are aghast. (John Sununu doesn't look too happy about it, either.)

These eco-villains conspire with the evil Quentin Hapsburg (an oleaginous Robert Goulet) to kidnap the wheelchair-bound Meinheimer and slip a duplicate into his place!

The entire "Naked" crew is back to help save America from environmental ruin. Priscilla Presley is Jane Spencer, Meinheimer's public relations director, Nielsen's ex-flame and the current squeeze of the smarmy Goulet. Although she won't make anyone forget she was Elvis's wife, Presley is able to keep a straight face for the duration -- no small feat, especially during one of the messiest love scenes since "Last Tango in Paris."

George Kennedy portrays basically the same character he's played in everything from "Airport" to "Earthquake," except in those movies he never had to hold a gasoline-powered marital aid, as he does briefly here. O. J. Simpson cheerfully endures more painful humiliations as Detective Nordberg, who seems to get beat on more than a bass drum.

Goulet is so oily as Hapsburg that you expect him to ooze off the screen and congeal at your feet. (With Ricardo Montalban the villain in the last "Naked Gun" and Goulet the baddie in this one, is there any doubt that negotiations are currently underway to cast Wayne Newton in the next installment?)

As for Nielsen, he's perfected a stone-cold deadpan that he alternates with a putty-faced look of surprise. Sometimes he combines them, as when he cold-cocks Barbara Bush for about the hundredth time.

While no one's going to confuse it with a green message film, it's a credit to writers David Zucker and Pat Proft that "Naked Gun" is more than an excuse to floor the First Lady a few times and drag O. J. Simpson behind a bus. And as director, Zucker -- one third of the triumvirate behind the "Airplane!" movies and "Police Squad!" TV series -- resists the urge to lard the jokes on too thickly. It's not quite the visual and aural overload that "Airplane!" was, where you got dizzy being bombarded by the gags. Here, the laughs are perfectly timed and perfectly executed, making for a perfect 90 minutes of goofball fun.

A bit of advice: Get to "The Naked Gun 2˝" on time and plan to stay till they turn the lights back on. The opening and closing credits alone are almost worth the price of admission.

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