So during the mass Christmas binge buying, I decided that I needed to add some more comedies to my collection. For some reason, this movie had popped into my head at that point so I decided to go ahead and buy it, as well as the sequel in a double disk set. Now I do like a good parody comedy, like just about every Mel Brooks film for instance, so when these movies came out, they were right up my alley. Of course, the fact that they were directed by Jim Abrahams, who co-directed Airplane, could have helped. Since it is Friday, let’s start the weekend off with some laughs as I watch today’s movie, Hot Shots!.
The plot: 20 years ago at Flemner Air Force Base, pilot “Buzz” Harley is flying a plane with his co-pilot Dominic “Mailman” Farnum but when he goes past Mach 2, the plane stalls out and they are forced to eject. Buzz manages to eject safely but Mailman’s seat malfunctions and he ends up crashing the plane into some trees before finally reaching the ground, where his seat ejects and sends him flying into some bushes. When Mailman recovers, he gets up but is shot by some hunters who mistake him for a deer due to the branches stuck on his helmet. In the present, Lt. Commander James Block goes to speak to Buzz’s son Lt. Topper Harley, who had been kicked out of the Navy and is living with a Native American tribe. Block says that the Navy is undertaking a secret mission called Sleepy Weasel and offers Topper a second chance at flying. After speaking with the tribal elder, Topper leaves for the Navy base and along the way, tries showing off on his motorcycle to a woman who is horseback riding. Topper arrives at the base and meets some of the men in the barracks such as Jim “Wash Out” Pfaffenbach and Pete “Dead Meat” Thompson. After being berated by the commanding officer, Topper meets Lt. Kent Gregory, who happens to be Mailman’s son. By coincidence, Wash Out happens to be the son of the hunter that killed Mailman and apologizes to Kent but Kent says he blames Buzz for his father’s death and worries that Topper will do the same to him. Later, Topper goes to see the base psychiatrist Ramada Thompson, who happens to be the woman he saw riding the horse. Ramada questions him about when he was kicked out of the Navy and it’s similarities to Buzz’s incident, which causes Topper to hyperventilate and Ramada says he suffers from Parental Conflict Syndrome. During a flight exercise, Topper and Kent compete as to who is better, with Topper coming out on top, but when Block mentions that Topper was just like Buzz, Topper spaces out and smashes through a billboard. Later, Topper and Ramada run into each other and Ramada suggest that Topper be grounded until he works out his issues but Topper gets upset and says flying is all he has. Meanwhile, Block meets up with Mr. Wilson, an airplane tycoon who is working on building a “Super Fighter” that will help make American pilots superior, but needs for the planes that the Navy uses now to fail in order for the Navy to replace them with his planes. Block reveals that he brought Topper back in order to ensure that the mission fails as he freezes whenever he hears his dad’s name. That night, Kent is at the local bar and sees Ramada there and goes to meet her, as they have a romantic history together, but Ramada excuses herself to go sing a musical number. During her performance, Topper shows up and takes over playing the piano, causing Kent to get jealous. After the song, the two men start arguing but Ramada breaks things up before they start fighting and goes to talk to Kent. After Kent leaves, Topper offers to walk her home and during the walk, apologizes for getting mad earlier. Ramada tells him she is worrying too much about him because she cares for him and they end up spending the night together. The next morning, the team is scheduled for combat exercises but as they are leaving, Wash Out tells Dead Meat that he has been kicked out due to having Wall-Eye vision. When he learns that Topper didn’t come back to base last night, Wash Out puts on Toppers flight suit in order to cover for him. Meanwhile, Topper wakes up and kisses Ramada goodbye before leaving for the base, where he sees Dead Meat’s wife watching the exercise and they witness Wash Out causing an incident that causes Dead Meat to crash. Dead Meat survives the crash but is struck by the ambulance as it heads towards the crash and Topper reaches the crash and accompanies him to the hospital, where he ends up dying. While Admiral Thomas “Tug” Benson is giving a eulogy at Dead Meat’s funeral, Block is speaking with Wilson and wants to use the incident as proof that the Navy’s planes are faulty but Wilson calls this a minor incident and says that the planes need to fail during combat. After the funeral, Topper goes to see Ramada and tells her he is resigning but she convinces him to stay. Kent sees them walking together and gets jealous and when Topper and Ramada return to her place, he says that they received their orders and asks if Topper will be there. Ramada feels bad for having hurt Kent and when Topper says that he loves her, she tells him she has to be alone to think. The team flies out to the carrier U.S.S. Essess and are surprised to learn that Wash Out is the radar technician. Willis and his subordinate show up to watch the attack but secretly, have one of the crew members sabotage the fighters’ weapons systems. As the team assembles for the mission briefing, Topper and Kent get into another argument when Kent tells Topper to drop out of the mission. The fight is broken up as Benson and Block arrive to discuss the mission objectives and Block tells the team that Topper will be the flight leader, despite Kent’s protests. When the rest of the team leave, Topper speaks with Block and says it feels like Block is trying to set the mission up to deliberately fail. As the team leaves, Block mentions to Topper that he is just like Buzz, causing Topper to space out and fly off alone. When enemy planes arrive, Block orders the team to abort but they are surrounded and forced to fight their way out. When their weapons don’t work, Block realizes that Wilson set them up and he radios Topper and says that he witnessed what had happened between Buzz and Mailman. Block tells Topper that Buzz did everything he could to save Mailman but ended up thrown from the plane. When Block is shot, Topper snaps out of it and joins the fight, using some fancy flying to take out the planes. He eventually manages to destroy the enemy planes but one of them fires 2 heat seekers at him so he uses the missiles to destroy the targeted nuclear plant, while also dropping a bomb on Saddam Hussein, completing the mission. As the planes return to the carrier, Wilson and his assistant try to get away but Topper and Benson stop them. When the carrier returns to the base, Topper sees Ramada on the dock and waves but when he sees Kent embrace Ramada, he turns away. On the dock, Kent tells Ramada to forget about him and go to Topper and she does and tries to chase after Topper when he gets in his plane and flies away. Topper returns to the tribe and speaks to the elder but is surprised to find Ramada their waiting for him and the two embrace.
Hot Shots! met with mostly praise from the critics, holding an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics praised Lloyd Bridges performance and while many felt it was not as good as Airplane, felt that this was a good spoof of some notable films. The scene where Ramada catches an olive that was popped out of her navel was done without the use of special effects. The movie debuted at #1 at the box office and would be a box office hit, earning $181.1 million off of a $26 million budget.
This is such a funny movie and, while some aspects are a little dated, it still holds up. The acting was really good, with Charlie Sheen (Topper), Cary Elwes (Kent), and Valeria Golino (Ramada) doing good jobs in their roles. I also liked Lloyd Bridges (Benson) but felt like he could have been used a little better than the small times he popped up. The story was good, mainly spoofing Top Gun but also working in Dances With Wolves, 9 1/2 Weeks, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Rocky, Gone With The Wind, and Superman for some funny scenes. The special effects in regarding the comedy aspects were pretty good but at times I felt they relied too much on the slapstick aspects and could have done more with some better writing and dialogue. A good movie that definitely guarantees some laughs when you watch it.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5