Grade: C+
Entire family: No
1987, 106 min., Color
Crime comedy
Shout! Factory
Rated PG-13 for some nudity, language, and violence
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 widescreen
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 2.0 Stereo
Bonus features: B
Trailer
Amazon link

Two years after Tom Hanks was paired with John Candy in Volunteers, Universal matched him up with another SNL regular: Dan Aykroyd. The premise? Spoof the old black-and-white Dragnet police drama starring Jack Webb as detective Sgt. Joe Friday, who always narrated with a stiff, humorless voiceover, walked without swinging his arms, and questioned witnesses and suspects with the same no-nonsense manner as he spoke. If someone started talking just a little off-topic, he’d interrupt them with a line that became his catchphrase: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

In other words, Joe Friday and Dragnet were both ripe for a parody, and while you don’t have to be familiar the old 30-minute detective show “get” this comedy, seeing Webb as Friday would certainly set you up for a steady smile as you watch Aykroyd nail the character playing Joe Friday’s nephew pursuing the same occupation. Being just a little familiar with the TV series also enables you to also appreciate the casting of Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H) as Friday’s superior officer, because Morgan played Sgt. Friday’s partner in the original series, which ran from 1951-59 and briefly again from 1967-70.

Although Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars because of how clever the parody played out, the trouble is, once you get past those delightful recognitions, this “flatfoot” crime comedy falls a little flat after a promising start. It’s entertaining enough, but you just don’t find yourself laughing as much once you get past the first 15 minutes or so. The humor is more tongue-in-cheek, with satire, not slapstick or clever writing, defining the comedy.

Christopher Plummer plays a holier-than-thou reverend leading a morality crusade. At the same time, this pillar of the community has ties with a cult known as P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness and Normalcy), and one of the fun scenes occurs when Friday and his new streetwise, laid-back partner Pep Streebek infiltrate a big P.A.G.A.N. gathering and save “the virgin Connie Swail” (Alexandra Paul) from being sacrificed. All of the actors hit their marks, the most savory performance is Dabney Coleman’s funny take on porn publishers like Larry Flynt and Bob Guccione.

So yeah, sacrificing virgins, porn publishers, strip clubs . . . Dragnet, released by Shout! Factory for the first time on Blu-ray, is definitely PG-13. Maybe even PG-15, if there were such a thing. The language is mild and so is the violence and alcohol/drug use, but there are a few surprises in the sex department. A woman comes on to Friday and shows him her breasts, while in another scene the two detectives go to a strip club and there are extended shots of breasts—though the nipples are covered.

As they’ve done with previous “Shout Select” releases, Shout! Factory gives movie lovers a sharp, new 4K transfer and includes a decent package of bonus features. Here we get Paul talking about the film and her role, plus early promo materials and photo galleries. The other main feature—a commentary by Shout! Factory associate producer Russell Dyball—is based on his research of the film, but probably won’t appeal much to the average family.

Language: One “shit” stands out because of the scene, but the rest of the mild expletives just blend in with the rest of the dialogue

Sex: Aside from the nudity already mentioned, there’s talk about “virgins” and a scene where testicles are smashed in a drawer

Violence: Fairly innocuous gun battles and car chases

Adult situations: At the P.A.G.A.N. gathering adults get a little Bacchanalian

Takeaway: Hanks was in a lot of so-so movies during this period, and Dragnet isn’t as good as Big or The Burbs, but it’s better than Joe Versus the Volcano and The Money Pit

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