Top Secret!

Top Secret!. Paramount Pictures 1984.
Top Secret!. Paramount Pictures 1984.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not quite sure what this is. The synopsis I’ve seen about a rock star getting involved in a counter-operation on a Nazi attack on submarines is simply confusing, and I have a hard time picturing Val Kilmer and not someone like Brendan Fraser, but its cult reputation that I’ve very recently stumbled upon is that it’s a Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker comedy of the same caliber as Airplane!. That’s a tall order to fill, since Scary Movie 4 tried and failed to live up to it, and even The Naked Gun franchise eventually let me down (the first one is good, and I look forward to the short-lived TV show it was based on).

Also the presence of cows in boots on all the posters baffles me, but that’s probably intentional.

After watching the movie:

American Rock and Roll star Nick Rivers gets invited by the Nazi government of East Germany (hence my confusion) to perform Rock for the first time in the country. While there, he meets distressed damsel Hillary Flammond, who is being shadowed by the government in order to force her abducted father to develop weapons to use against NATO. In helping her, Nick gets caught up in the efforts of the French resistance to stop the East German Nazis.

I found myself enjoying the movie less as the plot got going, but I probably didn’t notice all the gags going on in the background. This also seemed more plot-heavy than Airplane!, which contributed to my not liking it as much. I’d put it closer to The Naked Gun or The Naked Gun 2 ½ than Airplane! in that regard. I would say that possibly the problem is that the gags weren’t played quite as straight as they were in Airplane!, which was what made it work so well. Whatever the reason, one film is legend, and the other is an obscure cult favorite.

One thing this movie got right, though, is the restricted use of sexual/grossout related shock comedy. What I can’t stand about movies that try to be the next legendary spoof these days will rely too heavily on being nasty rather than being funny. Top Secret! relies on surfers shooting skeet with double-barreled shotguns and underwater cowboy fights rather than five minutes of somebody trapped in the one port-a-potty with the alien that only poops once a decade (2001: A Space Travesty) and the hero and the heroine coming together for a kiss but the hero gets shifted so his crotch is now where his mouth is (Superhero Movie).

To judge this movie on its own merit for a change, my biggest complaint ultimately is that there’s a lot of bad dubbing. I don’t know if Val Kilmer really recorded his own singing as the credits claim (since “performed by” can be a shifty phrase), but the lip syncing to the songs is terrible. There’s another, non-singing sequence later in the film that’s obviously been dubbed, but it’s easier to forgive that since it gradually becomes apparent that the entire shot is performed in reverse. I’d just prefer they didn’t put the actors right up against the microphone, which sounds different from being recorded from several feet away, even to an untrained but moderately sensitive ear.

I was disappointed in watching this movie, but the film didn’t let me down, the hype did. It deserves another chance from me, especially toward the end.

This blog draws inspiration from major critics. While Roger Ebert is far from the first movie critic, he was the first professional critic I was really aware of (well, along with Gene Siskel). I can only think of one film critic I hold in higher esteem, and it is with great respect that I honor his passing. I hope to see him at the movies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.