Back in the day, UK tv audiences were wowed by the Christmas spectaculars organised by top BBC comics Morecambe and Wise; Eric and Ernie used to be able to pull enough strings to fill their shows with celebrity cameos, giving the programming the unmissable air of an office party where the straight-laced newsreaders and presenters let their hair down for a good old fashioned knees up. Game-changing parody Airplane! captured a similar vibe during the same period; Seeing stars like Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges sending themselves up added class to the stoner humour, and led Nielsen directly to Police Squad and the Naked Gun, and Bridges to the two successful Hot Shots movies.
Hot Shots Part Un is a direct skit of Top Gun, a film that, for all its merits, was ripe for parody; the opening scene squeezes every possible sight gag from the setting of an aircraft carrier. In place of Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen turns on his charm as Topper Harley, a maverick fly-boy who battles with Admiral Tug Benson, played by Bridges as a Ronald Reagan-like buffoon, addled by a myriad of war injuries.
Hot Shots keeps costs down by using footage from Flight of the Intruder to make sure that Jim Abraham’s movie looks the part, but there’s also some very elaborate gags to savour; Benson laments the lack of atmosphere on the base, but he’s actually standing in front of a painting rather than a window. Topper acts the gentleman and turns a lady away from the inferno consuming her lover, only to accidentally turn them both towards a mirror that provides her with a perfect view of the scene. The parodies are random, from 9 and a Half Weeks to The Fabulous Baker Boys, but most of them land; ‘What about your landlady?’ worries Topper as Ramada (Valeria Golino) sneaks him into her boarding house for some illicit nookie. ’You can do her too’ is her agreeably rude response.
Yes, that’s Valeria Golino, last spotted in Portrait of a Lady on Fire; she’s made it as a serious actress, but there’s no business more serious than comedy, and Golino is a riot here. Sure, there’s a few cringe jokes, but the best ones are belters, and the whole cast seem to be having fun; if you fancy seeing Hollywood with its pants around its ankles, Hot Shots offers top fun.