Though I always try to keep an open mind, it's only natural that I went into "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult" thinking the well was probably pretty dry. But much to my surprise, the opening sequence had me laughing hysterically with a parody of the famous "steps" scene from Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables."

An array of baby carriages roll down a huge stairway as a slow-motion shootout begins over them, then a runaway lawnmower is chased by a gardener, followed by a series of celebrity entourages and finally, disgruntled postal workers. Then, as the carriages hit the bottom of the stairway, the babies fly out, with O.J. Simpson reverting to his football days as he catches them one by one. It's a riotous beginning and sets up very high expectations for the rest of the movie.

But unfortunately, the rest of the movie fails to deliver.

Despite a funny, if protracted climax, set against a fictional Academy Awards ceremony, the bulk of the film is hit and miss — mostly miss.

This time out, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), of Los Angeles' Police Squad, has retired and become a househusband while his wife Jane (Priscilla Presley) is trying cases in the courtroom. Their marriage is in trouble, and it doesn't help when, against Jane's wishes, Frank comes out of retirement for an undercover job.

On the job, Frank disguises himself as a gangster and goes inside prison, befriending a terrorist named Rocco (Fred Ward) as the film goes into a spoof of "The Great Escape." Once out, they head for Rocco's hideout in the woods where Frank is seduced by Rocco's girlfriend (Anna Nicole Smith, of those Guess? Jeans ads) and Jane unexpectedly shows up.

This leads to the Oscar show takeoff, which includes appearances by a series of unbilled celebrities, including Raquel Welch, James Earl Jones, Olympia Dukakis, Elliott Gould, Mariel Hemingway and Pia Zadora.

Among the many movies that are spoofed are "Jurassic Park" (no less than three times!), "The Crying Game" and "Thelma & Louise" (the latter featuring Ellen Greene, a fine actress — she co-starred with Rick Moranis in "Little Shop of Horrors" — who is given nothing to do).

3 comments on this story

Some of this is funny, but an awful lot falls flat, and the film ultimately wears out its welcome long before it's over. Mercifully, it gets over pretty quickly (the film is just over 80 minutes in length).

By the way, despite an ad campaign aimed directly at kids, the PG-13 rating here seems awfully soft, considering the amount of vulgar and raunchy material — especially a tasteless sequence set in a sperm bank that is too long and offers no laughs whatsoever. There is also violence, albeit comic in nature, and profanity.