Jim Abrahams (Airplane!) directs this Top Gun parody starring Charlie Sheen, Cary Elwes, Lloyd Bridges, Jon Cryer, Kevin Dunn, and Valeria Golino. This was made back in the days when parody films were actually smart and clever, before it devolved into shit like Epic Movie and Vampires Suck. You have to respect the source material if you’re going to make a funny parody. You can’t just slap scenes and gags together to lengthen the film’s running time.
Hot Shots! actually has a plot. Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) is a top Navy pilot with some daddy issues. He’s a natural pilot but is self-destructive, something that his therapist/love interest (Valeria Golino) tries to help him with. Cary Elwes plays a rival pilot feuding with Topper. His future Two and a Half Men co-star Jon Cryer also plays a fellow pilot and Kristy Swanson walks around in a bra, which is nice.
Even though this is a parody, it’s still a pretty solid film. It has a real plot, the characters actually develop, and the end result is an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Compare that to the 2% and 4% rating for Epic Movie and Vampires Suck. There is a joke or a gag every few seconds and most of them are hysterical. But there is also continuity to the jokes. When Lloyd Bridges spits pudding on Kevin Dunn’s face, the pudding stays on his face until he wipes it away. There is a Chihuahua that has the unfortunate habit of getting sat on. The funniest jokes are reoccurring ones.
Charlie Sheen carries the picture. He’s kind of like a younger Leslie Nielsen: they are both comedic actors, but they aren’t really comedians. They both have a deadpan delivery while doing the absurd. Hot Shots! isn’t as funny as Airplane!, but that’s a tough act to follow.
Critically Rated at 12/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young