Grade:  C+ and B-
Rated PG

With Maverick raking in close to $600 million in total gross and drawing praise from critics and viewers, many fans have started re-watching the original Top Gun. But if you’re also a fan of silly parodies, why stop there? You might as well add the Top Gun parody to your home video library. It’s available with the sequel (Hot Shots! Part Deux) on both domestic and imported Blu-rays.

Hot Shots! (1991) was the first parody Jim Abrahams directed without Jerry and David Zucker after the three parted ways following silly successes like Airplane!, The Naked Gun, and Top Secret! As far as parodies go, you should be warned that none of the three found the same level of success as when they worked as a team. But there are still some laughs to be had. Many of the laughs here come from Lloyd Bridges’ performance as Admiral Tug Benson, who is hilariously clueless and never present, though he’s standing right there. Hot Shots! is mostly a takeoff on Top Gun, but other films that get spoofed include An Officer and a Gentleman, 9 1/2 weeks, Dances with Wolves, Superman, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. And Bridges plays a version of a character fans will recognize from Airplane!

Charlie Sheen does a pretty good job of deadpanning the leather-jacketed, bike-riding role Tom Cruise made famous, with Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) serving as his main fighter-pilot rival, Kent Gregory. The film follows Harley’s reluctant return to flying—reluctant because, like his father before him, he was responsible for another flier’s death. And things don’t bode well for his new partner, “Dead Meat” (William O’Leary). When things heat up “somewhere in the Mediterranean,” Harley and Kent are picked to join the mission to knock out Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons factory, with secondary targets being an accordion factory and a mime school (one of the funnier lines from co-writers Pat Proft and Abrahams). Complicating matters? Harley’s fragile psychological state and an evildoer of the capitalist kind (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) who is trying to sabotage the planes for personal gain.

Bridges as Admiral/President Benson

Hot Shots! starts off promising enough, with a near-exact replica of the Top Gun opening sequence, but with some funny sight gags thrown in. After that, the laughs thin out. I had hoped to like Hot Shots! as much as the trio’s best spoofs, but frankly there are dead spots in the narrative where there aren’t any laughs. The problems are that Proft and Abrahams go to the visual pun well way too many times, and too many of the other jokes have visual set-ups that make the jokes obvious. You can see them coming, and laughter depends on the element of surprise. Proft and Abrahams also didn’t seem to know what to do with the Kelly McGillis character. Valeria Golino (Rain Man) does her best, but her character is all over the comedy map.

Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993) is funnier than Hot Shots! and that’s not just my opinion. Abrahams and some of the cast have also said so. The consistently funny Lloyd Bridges is back as Tug Benson, the always clueless and therefore dangerous battle-hardened veteran with more artificial body parts than the Six Million Dollar Man. But this time he’s so incompetent that of course he’s now the President.  

In a Part Deux bonus feature, co-stars Sheen and Golino confess that they think the sequel is a better movie because the script is stronger and each felt freer and more comfortable with their roles. Part Deux is also more consistently funny, with a lot going on in the margins. Example? As the camera zeroes in on a refrigerator-raiding Saddam Hussein, his top shelf includes products like Falafel Helper, Old Iraqi Beer, and Aunt Jamal Syrup. Or during the “Dim Sum” scene mimicking a handful of kickboxing films, viewers can spot a John 3: 17 placard spoofing the one that turns up at many major American sporting events. Even This Old House’s Bob Villa has a cameo, offering tips on how to caulk the ashram.  Proft and Abrahams seem to let loose a bit more with the sequel, and have an obvious good time poking fun of former President George Bush (in the most obvious Bush reference, the socially inept Pres. Benson throws up on a Japanese dignitary, as George the First once did). But there are a lot of places where art seems to have anticipated life, and viewers may find themselves thinking of presidents since Bush. Proft and Abrahams are equal opportunity political satirists. Dems also fall under their irreverent knife, with, for example, every female character sporting “Rodham” for a middle name.

The sequel has a kind of seamless, wicked energy that seemed lacking in the more predictable Hot Shots! Part Deux is mostly a parody of Rambo: First Blood  II, which featured a rippling Sly Stallone  as a rogue government-trained commando who goes to Cambodia to rescue American POWs. In Part Deux, a surprisingly buff Sheen (Bridges tells us no body doubles were used, and Sheen explains he went to Maui to work out) tries to liberate Desert Storm POWs. Fans will also recognize playful allusions to such films as  Rambo III, Casablanca, The African Queen, Star Wars, The Adventures of Robin Hood, American Gladiators, Terminator 2, Basic Instinct, Lady and the Tramp, Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, and even Lloyd Bridges’ old television show, Sea Hunt. Richard Crenna reprises his Rambo role as an officer who best knows and understands the enigmatic Harley, and pulls it off with the same mock seriousness as the rest. “It’s only funny if the actors and characters are sincere,” he remarks in the bonus feature. Don’t be scared off by the zany chicken-as-arrow on the Blu-ray cover art. Most of the jokes don’t run so far a-fowl of the wittier gags that keep the movie moving forward. 

Entire family:  No (10 and older?)
Run times:  84 min. / 88 min.
Aspect ratios:  16:9 / 1.85:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HDMA 5.1
Studio/Distributor: Fox
Amazon link-Hot Shots!
Amazon link-Hot Shots! Part Deux
Hot Shots! Trailer
Hot Shots! Part Deux Trailer
Rated PG-13 for sexual spoofs, language, and comic violence

Language:  5/10—In HS, two f-bombs and a few dozen creative lesser swearwords and expressions; in HSPD, less swearing, with one f-bomb and less creative swearwords

Sex:  3/10—In HS, one sexual scene in lingerie intended to be funny, with a next-morning wake-up in bed, and a woman shown in bra in the barracks; in HSPD, innuendo plus one crazy sex scene in underwear and a blurred frontal nudity shot where you can’t see anything, but see below

Violence:  6/10In HS, multiple crashes, lots of silent-era style pratfalls and slapstick accidents, a brief fight, missiles explode, a man is shot, a man is shown being drained of his blood (sounds worse than it is), all for comic effect; in HSPD, comic shooting, fist fighting, no blood, but one memorable scene where a kick to the groin makes the guy’s testicles come out of his mouth

Adult situations:  3/10—In HS, a bar scene with drinking, and two men smoke a helium pipe; in HSPD, just social drinking

Takeaway: Some funny stuff here, particularly in the sequel, but it kind of makes you wish that Abrahams, Zucker, and Zucker would make a reunion parody.