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HOT SHOTS PART DEUX

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Charlie Sheen, Lloyd Bridges, Valerie Golino, Brenda Bakke, Miguel Ferrer, Richard Crenna
Director:  Jim Abrahams
Audio:  Dolby Digital 4.0
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  Two Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer
Length:  88 Minutes
Release Date:  August 6, 2002

“War…it’s FANTASTIC!!”

Film ***1/2

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Hot Shots was not a movie I thought merited a sequel, but I’m certainly glad someone thought otherwise.  Hot Shots Part Deux is as sharp and relentlessly funny as they come.

The original film mostly spoofed Top Gun, a film that was way too old at the time for a spoof and a picture that I never cared much for.  Thankfully, the writing team of Jim Abrahams and Pat Proft thought of using the Rambo movies as a jumping off point for the second take….films that were more immediate and more ripe to be kidded.

Charlie Sheen returns as Topper Harley, no longer the Tom Cruise knockoff, but instead sporting Stallone’s long locks and physique.   His first scene is straight out of Rambo III, and as funny an introduction as any character could hope for.

In the time that followed the first movie, inept Admiral “Tug” Benson (the inimitable Bridges) has become President, Desert Storm has come and gone, and Saddam Hussein is still in power, living in a goofy pleasure palace complete with Western touches.  We learn that two missions to enter Iraq and extract our prisoners of war have failed.  Now, it’s up to Topper to go in and get the men that went in to get the men that went in to get the men.

He is asked by none other than Richard Crenna, who, in a show of great sportsmanship, kids his Trautman role from the Rambo films to a tee.  He ends up captured in the most recent failed mission, which brings Topper out of his retirement and back into the fray.

Assisting him are the alluring Michelle Huddleston (Bakke) from the CIA (who shares with Sheen one of the funniest bedroom scenes ever filmed), and of course, his love interest from the first movie, Ramada (Golino).  Things did not go smoothly for the couple in between films.  “Why did you have to show up here?” Topper asks.  “I had to come,” she says.  “It’s the sequel.”

Their mission to free the hostages is just an excuse for one Rambo-styled combat scene after another, each served sunny-side up courtesy of director Abrahams.  The weapons of war are a scream, as are the little nods to films like Terminator 2 and others.  One can only wonder what Iraq is doing with so much jungle terrain, but never mind…

Sheen continued to prove that comedy was his forte with this film, but the whole cast was up to the challenge.  The scenes with Lloyd Bridges are one riot after another, and the breaking ground for the presidential library scene ought to be remembered as an all time classic.  Bakke, Golino and Crenna are equally funny and impressive in how they manage to keep straight faces in the most absurd of situations.  But I have to give credit to my old favorite Miguel Ferrer:  he doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he does get the movie’s funniest line (quoted above, for those who might have missed it).

Hot Shots Part Deux is simply a chuckle fest from start to finish.  I’ve seen it countless times, know every joke by heart, but I still laugh and laugh hard every time.  This is the rare case of a sequel surpassing the original, and even though the original was no thoroughbred, it doesn’t take anything away from it.

NOTE: As my comrade Gordon has pointed out, Abrahams and his cohorts are filmmakers who like to fill their end credits with extra gags, so keep an eye out for them.  My personal favorite:  “Baseball superstar Darryl Strawberry spends his winters thinking up new excuses.”  Ouch!

Video **

Fox delivers a hit and miss anamorphic transfer here.  Some stretches look exemplary; others look like poop.  Darker and mid-level lit shots suffer the worst, with less definition and sometimes a bit of haziness or shimmer.  Brighter scenes come across like new, with strong coloring and sharp detail.  Overall, it’s watchable, but the range from really good to really poor gives this one a split score.

Audio ***

Though a 4.0 track is unusual (the box incorrectly states “stereo”), it’s actually quite good, using both left and right speakers in the front and back.  Some scenes desperately miss the subwoofer, but the surround mix is quite good and fairly bold, especially during the combat scenes.  Dynamic range is better than average, and dialogue is clear throughout…no noise or interference gumming up the works.  A quality effort overall.

Features **

The features are a bit light…the “Adventure in Filmmaking” featurette is narrated in Spanish, for reasons I couldn’t begin to explain (though the interview clips are in English).  One last practical joke, I suppose.  There is also a shorter “Early Awareness” featurette and the original trailer (which is a scream), plus trailers for four other Fox films out on DVD.

Summary:

Laughter is sometimes better the second time around…it definitely is in the case of Hot Shots Part Deux.  This superior sequel starts with a better subject to spoof, and the witty writing and terrific cast take it from there…very funny stuff.