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‘Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult’ (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 18, 1994

Only one filmmaking team should be allowed to make sequels: The Naked Gun people. In "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult," they reach maximum velocity immediately.

In a takeoff of Brian DePalma's shootout on the train station steps in "The Untouchables" (itself a tribute to a classic Russian silent movie), the "Naked Gun" trio (Leslie Nielsen, George Kennedy and O. J. Simpson) are waiting in disguise for Capone-type gangsters to show up at Grand Central.

Suddenly, a woman with a baby carriage needs assistance going down the stairs -- then another, and another. Soon, the three cops find themselves contending with four runaway carriages down the steps as the gangsters start firing.

Amid this melee of rolling carriages, screaming mothers and gun-blazing -- all in pseudo-arty slow motion -- a lawn mower comes hurtling down the stairs. Without spoiling things further, let's just say the scene is milked to the last comic drop.

Poor Nielsen. As the intrepid Lt. Frank Drebin, now married to longtime girlfriend Priscilla Presley, he's in retirement limbo. Padding around his house in pink slippers, he dusts for cobwebs instead of fingerprints; and after six months of marriage, things aren't as passionate with Priscilla as they used to be.

When old partners Kennedy and Simpson request his services -- to find out what terrorist Fred Ward is up to -- Nielsen jumps at the chance.

His undercover mission has him playing Ward's cellmate, busting out of jail with the mercenary, then joining Ward's gang (including Ma Barkerish mom Kathleen Freeman and over-endowed moll Anna Nicole Smith) for a dastardly mission at the Academy Awards ceremony.

Prepare for the usual abundance of gratuitous sight gags ("Dyslexia for Cure Found" screams a newspaper's front-page headline); movie parodies (including "The Great Escape" and "The Crying Game"); and an onslaught of one-liners, double-entendres, black comedy, guest celebs (Raquel, Vanna et al.) and funny end credits.

"Naked 3" sets such a great pace at the beginning, it can't possibly keep up. Inevitably, the movie (created by Robert K. Weiss, David Zucker, Robert LoCash and Pat Proft and directed by Peter Segal) has its slower sections, coming almost to a halt in a slapstick finale at the Oscars.

But wherever you are in the story, there's always something funny coming at you. Begging Nielsen to come out of retirement, Kennedy reminds the retiree that he hasn't shot anyone in six months. "That's true," says Nielsen. "Funny how you miss the little things."

Nielsen's understatement makes the jokes work. As Drebin, he's the most serenely incompetent movie detective since Inspector Clouseau. An unwitting danger to friends, family and the public, he's the last man in America to deserve any badge of responsibility. That's precisely why, in "Naked Gun," he's the perfect man for the job.

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