National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)

Chances are if you remember this, it’s sort of vaguely, like you can picture Samuel L Jackson and Emilio Estevez but nothing else springs to mind. It’s been a long time and it was sort of a flop when it was released, especially compared to spiritual cousins like “The Naked Gun” (1988) and “Hot Shots!” (1991), but let’s talk about it a little, I’ll tell you if it’s any good or not, and then you might want to drop $2.99 on renting it from Youtube, or wherever the hell else it’s available.

 

There’s a line, about halfway through, where one of the supporting cast is talking to Emilio Estevez and says isn’t it a bit obvious? That Estevez is doing a parody movie just after his brother did one? That’s pretty much all the reason you need for this movie’s existence, although there’s a rumour it started out life as a movie version of 80s TV classic “Sledge Hammer!” Show creator Alan Spencer, clearly allergic to money, turned down all the scripts offered to him and ended up making the entirely forgotten Arye Gross vehicle “Hexed” instead; the thirst of the studio for a cop parody movie turned into this, written and directed by the guy who also wrote…”Police Academy” parts 3 and 4. Oh dear.

It’s mostly a parody of “Lethal Weapon”, obviously. Estevez is Jack Colt (the Mel Gibson character), and Wes Luger (Jackson) is the Danny Glover guy, with his family of a horny teenage daughter, a horny pre-teen son and a horny dog. Jon Lovitz completes the team as the Joe Pesci informant-turned-friend. Then, much like every modern parody movie, it aims its comedy blunderbuss at pretty much everything in pop culture at the time – so you get Kathy Ireland as Destiny Demeanor (aka Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”) and F. Murray Abraham as Dr Harold Leacher (aka Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence Of The Lambs”). Then there’s scenes which reference stuff like “Wayne’s World” and “Ghost”, but thanks to the decent-sized budget, they often approach things in a slightly different way.

 

Cameos! You want to do a joke about your printers being fixed by Scotty from Star Trek? Hire James Doohan! What about a shootout with two guys who famously never even unholstered their guns? Hire Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox from “C.H.i.P.s.”! How about Dr Joyce Brothers as a crime scene tech? Charlie Sheen as a valet? Corey Feldman and Phil Hartman as two cops at a hostage scene? And, in “why did he agree to this?” news, Bruce Willis as a guy who gets his beach caravan blown up? (turns out, one of the producers was his brother and it was a favour).

The plot, such as it is, relates to a microfilm which contains a recipe for turning cocaine into Wilderness Girl cookies, making them easy to transport. Luger’s old partner (Whoopi Goldberg) has it and hides it, and she’s killed by Mr Jigsaw (Tim Curry, having a blast) who’s working for Colt’s old army boss, General Mortars (William Shatner, who’s also having an overacting good time). Colt and Luger have to stop them, Colt has a relationship with the head of the Wilderness Girls, you really don’t need a plot recap from a parody movie.

 

There is, perhaps, a reason why this film, even if all the jokes had landed, wouldn’t have been a hit the size of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker family of movies. “Lethal Weapon”, the main source of material, doesn’t exactly take itself super-seriously, and has plenty of humour coming from the interaction of the two main characters (even more so when Joe Pesci comes on board). It’s an over-the-top version of cop-show clichés; so trying to one-up it even further is a very difficult task. “Airplane” parodies serious movies (famously, using huge amounts of dialogue from “Zero Hour” and playing it completely straight, letting the background or the situation provide the comedy) so it’s a lot easier.

But, there are a lot of fantastic gags in this, well-timed and well-delivered. The police sketch artist using a Mr Potato Head is a groaner, until you see a human-sized Mr Potato Head getting arrested in the background of a later scene. There’s the way they use the corpses when asking people if they remember a certain character. There’s the way all their forms of transportation explode. There’s the “give me a name!” scene. And the “I think that’s what got her killed” scene. The guys following the cops. There’s a solid amount of really good stuff.

 

It’s also really short, which, given the number of extra scenes which you can see on some releases and cable screenings, is a bit of a surprise. The credits start rolling at 75 minutes and they take almost ten minutes, and there’s not even any fun fake credits in there.

 

“Loaded Weapon 1” was a flop, and plans for part 2 (which included an already-made poster) were scrapped pretty quickly. And, honestly, it feels a lot more like “Scary Movie” than it does “Airplane” (or even “Hot Shots”). But, it never slows down with the gags for a second, and enough of them hit that you’ll have a good time at least as often as you curse the name of the person who wrote this. Would I spend a lot of time tracking this down in 2019? Probably not, but if it shows up on some out-of-the-way cable channel at some point, you could do a lot worse.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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