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

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 28, 1991

Lt. Frank Drebin is back, his weapon bared and his nose hairs quivering, in "The Naked Gun 2˝: The Smell of Fear." Billed as "un film de David Zucker," this earth-friendly parody targets the Energy Lobby, which it lambastes from titles to credits with pratfalls, puns and Mr. Poopy Pants jokes. The movie aims to please, and it does when its targets merit a good skewering.

Though it opens on Pennsylvania Avenue, "Naked Gun 2˝" doesn't aspire to political satire. As written by Zucker and his frequent collaborator, Pat Proft, the screenplay is less a story than an excuse to kid movie conventions, from "Ghost" to "Casablanca." Like boys whose voices haven't changed, Zucker and Proft have an especially sophomoric attitude toward mushy stuff. But then what adult survivor of schoolyard sex education doesn't?

Leslie Nielsen, returning as Drebin, is reunited with Priscilla Presley as Jane Spencer, his lost love from "The Naked Gun." Drebin, currently assigned to the President's Special Scum Round-Up, bumps into Jane here in D.C., where she has taken a position with Dr. Albert S. Meinheimer (Richard Griffiths), a world energy expert.

Though she's still hung up on Frank, Jane is now seeing Quentin Hapsburg (Robert Goulet), an unscrupulous power broker out to undermine Meinheimer's clean-energy program. With help from the coal, oil and nuclear interests -- SMOKE, SPILL and KABOOM -- Hapsburg intends to kidnap Meinheimer and replace him with a look-alike, who will advise President Bush and his Cabinet to stick with the present program.

Of course, the plot is irrelevant. It's Nielsen, the Calphalon of deadpans, who separates "The Naked Gun" from the dead. As the oblivious Drebin, he steps on a rake and an innocent bystander gets hit in the face. He tears into a lobster at a state dinner and Winnie Mandela ends up with a lemon wedge in her headdress. Nothing is sacred and no one safe, with even the wheelchair-bound Dr. Meinheimer taking his share of lumps.

Presley is quietly daffy as Jane, a sweet cartoon with a passion for a guy with the sex appeal of the Mad Hatter. Some of the movie's best visual punning coincides with the tension between them, which sets off rockets, fires cannons and runs trains. His first sight of her sets Frank off on a lover's soliloquy -- her shining hair, her limpid pools, "her breasts that seemed to say, 'Look at these.' "

O.J. Simpson and George Kennedy also return as the two senior members of the "Police Squad!," originally a TV show from whose files the "Naked Guns" originated. Unfortunately, neither of them quite gets with the mayhem in this sequel. And we begin to remember -- not that the moviemakers try to cover it up -- that there are no San Francisco-steep hills in Washington. Anarchistic as they are anachronistic, these chuckleheads could care less about niceties.

That becomes clear when the movie takes off after our First Granny, Barbara. It seems bush league to bash Babs when the White House is teeming with Sununu-sized bull's-eyes. Look-alikes for the chief of staff, the president and the First Lady play these roles, while has-been celebs turn up as themselves in surprise cameos.

Zucker, who collaborated with his brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams on such comedies as "Airplane!" and "Ruthless People," is working solo here. And aside from a flat patch midway through, he delivers as faithfully as Domino's pizza. In the limbo of comedy, few can go lower than Zucker without visibly straining. And the movie has a message: "Love is like the ozone layer; you never miss it until it's gone." Kinda gets you right here.

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