I figured I should watch a Leslie Nielsen movie, and I hadn’t seen Naked Gun 33 1/3 in a long time, so I pulled it off the shelf and settled in. It wasn’t a very good choice … the series was on its last legs … but I laughed a few times.
I struggle so much with contemporary comedy, and yet in the heyday of the Zuckers and Jim Abraham, I laughed … a lot. Eventually there were decreasing returns, but Airplane!, the Police Squad! TV series, my favorite Top Secret, and the first Naked Gun movie were all hilarious. The latter two Naked Guns weren’t as funny, and I didn’t bother with Hot Shots and the rest.
I’m trying to understand why I liked those movies so much more than I like most of the comedies I see today. Don’t really know, but perhaps it has something to do with the rapid-fire approach to jokes (33 1/3 isn’t as quick as its predecessors) and the pop-cult smarts it takes to fully enjoy the movies. In that regard, these movies are like 30 Rock, which tends to congratulate itself (and its audience) for offering/getting all the jokes. You could watch a trailer for Airplane!, see a dozen jokes, and know that there were dozens more in the movie itself. Nowadays, it seems like films are made with just enough funny scenes to make for a good preview, but when you watch the movie, well, you’ve already seen all the good parts.
As usual, though, I can’t come to any useful conclusions. I don’t see any connections between the various comedies I like (Buster Keaton, screwball, Office/Curb Your Enthusiasm discomfort, rapid-fire 30 Rock). It’s going to be a mystery forever, I guess.