If you grew up in the 1980s/90s, then chances are that you must have seen at least one Zucker, Zucker and Abrams movie. From Top Secret through to The Naked Gun, that trio of producers had a genre that they not only owned, but branded with a red hot poker and rodeod around with.
But out of all the parody films that they made, the second Hot Shots might have been their very best collaborative effort.
Topper Harley is found working as an odd-job-man in a monastery. The CIA wants him to lead a rescue mission into Iraq, to rescue the last rescue team, who went in to rescue the last rescue team who… who went in to rescue hostages left behind after Desert Storm. The President is Tug Benson, who also likes to be in on the action. Basically, it’s a send-up of all the big shoot-em-up Rambo/Robocop/T2/Commando-type movies.
There’s a certain line that never gets crossed when parody films are made, and that’s to include an original actor from said parodied film in the adaptation. Hot Shots didn’t just ignore that unwritten rule, they straight out chucked into a furnace, buried the remains and forgot about it when they cast Richard “Colonel Trautman” Crenna as Colonel Denton Walters. And it worked beautifully.
It’s one thing to have a pre-tiger blood Charlie Sheen suiting up as a Rambo imitation who fights with candy on his fists in illegal Asian boxing matches (GUMMI BEARS! SPRINKLES! GUMMI BEARS! SPRINKLES!), but throwing in that extra layer of Ramboness just worked wonders for the film.
And then you’ve got returning legend Lloyd Bridges as the senile president of the United States, Tug Benson. One of the best actors of his generation, and pretty damn effective as a helium-huffing buffoon who is deadset on revenge-murdering Saddam Hussein. And those damn background gags. They’re typically ZZ and A material. And they’re typically brilliant as usual, manifesting in the weirdest of ways, from metaphorical boxes of courage and fear through to the army doing a sultry dance number when you’re not looking.
But when it comes to taking the piss out of movies of that time period, Hot Shots just does it so damn well. From Star Wars through to Rambo and the Wizard of Oz, nothing was sacred. It’s the kind of film that is the sum of its parts, with all of them coming together to create one of the best parody films of all time.
And twenty years on, few films have ever managed to match it, let alone surpass it.
Last Updated: July 17, 2013