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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.32%
Average: 5.41%
Pretty Bad: 2.7%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 31 user ratings

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Top Secret!
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by Paulapalooza

"The forgotten ZAZ film is aces"
5 stars

Love them or hate them, "Airplane!," "The Naked Gun," and "Kentucky Fried Movie" are classics in the harebrained-yet-subtly-witty canon of film comedy. Hell, they basically originated the entire sub-screwball genre. It baffles me, then, that the most absurd film of the David Zucker/Jim Abrahams/Jerry Zucker stable is the most ignored. It's also the best.

Top Secret! is a knowing, loving shish-kebab of both World War Two and, get this, Elvis movies. Yes, Elvis movies, where no matter what sort of wonky situation presents itself, no matter how many ne'er-do-wells are out to cramp his style or how many women are aching to wield the King's scepter, The Pelvis always has time and energy to sing a rock and roll tune for a bevy of frenzied fans who just happen to be lounging at the same clambake before he "takes a walk on the beach" with Ann-Margret.

The preposterous, threadbare plot hardly matters, but here it is: Nazi bastards are staging a cultural festival so that the world will be focusing on that rather than a secret attack on a submarine fleet using a new secret weapon designed by a captured scientist. Leonard Bernstein is unavailable to represent the United States, so rock god Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is tapped to replace him. Before he knows it, Nick is trapped in an international incident, aiding the daughter of the scientist and her allies in the French Resistance. Why a cell of the French resistance is so active deep in German territory is never explained, nor should it be, by God.

Keep in mind that NONE OF THIS MATTERS. The entire so-called plot is simply an exercise to set up a variety of set pieces, one-off jokes, clever sight gags, and song parodies whose silliness factor increases exponentially throughout the film. Adding to the movie's mystique for film fans is a medley of homages, from "The Blue Lagoon" all the way to "The Great Escape."

What's absolutely amazing and enduring about this movie is that almost every joke hits. In most flicks of this sort, made by pretenders to the ZAZ throne and sadly sometimes by the ZAZ combo themselves in their later days, three out of ten jokes might elicit a sympathetic titter or smirk, and maybe one in twenty-five will prompt anything resembling a belly laugh. I've probably seen Top Secret! at least thirty times, and not only does it still make me giggle like a third-grader hearing the word "penis," but I still find jokes I've missed or forgotten. From Leroy Nieman to poop humor, from L. Ron Hubbard to erections, it's all presented equally and democratically for our rabid amusement. More importantly, there is never a moment screaming "Look at me, I'm FUNNY!" as there is in every Jim Carrey flick on the books. It's ALL funny, all the time.

Credit must not only be given to the communal entity of "ZAZ," but to a spirited cast of mostly unknowns led by Kilmer in his first significant screen outing (aided and abetted by ace character actors like Michael Gough, Peter Cushing, and Omar Sharif in small roles). No matter how dumb they know the material is, they sell every bit, every time, in every scene, rarely overplaying anything into laugh-track land. Comedy is a delicate, fickle lover, but everyone on-screen here buys her a nice dinner, brings her flowers, and doesn't even ask for a bee-jay in return. Kilmer is actually something of a comic revelation and a master of timing, so it's a shame he went on to gain more notoriety as Iceman and make flicks like "The Saint."

I can't recommend this baby enough. It's certainly one of the better comedies to rise from the muck of the 1980's, and it's been a personal favorite for years. Airplane! and The Naked Gun often get all the credit and the play on cable stations, but this twisted, neglected middle child is the biggest achiever of the family.

It goes without saying that this film isn't comedy gold for everyone. But if it is, aye caramba, it's the mother lode.

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originally posted: 11/05/99 20:17:06
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User Comments

5/19/19 Anne humor is so persoal;I lasted 20 minutes and then stopped watching 2 stars
4/19/12 Sheryl Granholm Back before Val Kilmer looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy 5 stars
7/25/11 adamsjordo Funniest movie I saw back then...and now! 5 stars
4/22/10 brian It's no "Airplaine!" But hey, what is? 4 stars
4/21/08 littlecow i watched this movie long time ago, just want to say this is the BEST movie i've ever seen 5 stars
5/31/06 Ashley Hinz Odd Movie, but ok. 4 stars
4/06/06 I__Nighthawk__I THE BEST FILM EVER! 5 stars
10/31/05 Quigley when that nazi crashed through the train bridge, I almost died laughing. worth a viewing 4 stars
5/11/05 Indrid Cold A forgotten cult classic that approaches Airplane and Naked Gun in quality. 4 stars
11/28/04 felix6931 great movie one of the best ever...worth every viewing 5 stars
7/03/04 Piper Ranks up there with Airplane 1&2 and Police Squad! 5 stars
5/23/04 Adele I love this film! Too bad they don't make 'em like they used to... 5 stars
3/26/03 Jack Sommersby Some dead spots and clunkers, but it's still good fun. Kilmer, again, shows comic verve. 4 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum Underappreciated followup to "Airplane!" 5 stars
7/19/02 Bada Bing Crosby Vini, Vedi, Vici..Pro Forma..Coitus Interuptus..Mitzi Gaynor ad nauseum 5 stars
6/28/02 Randy Claeys excellent, ludicrous, irresistably silly & naughty 4 stars
5/21/02 Pat Martin Funny, Funny, Funny x 1000 5 stars
4/17/02 Craig Schell 5 Stars Ain't Enough!! 5 stars
3/01/02 gb best comedy of its sub-genre 5 stars
12/10/01 Andrew Carden You've Got To Admit That It Was Pretty Funny. 4 stars
12/01/01 Cracked head Gimme a fucking break. 3 stars
6/18/01 The Bomb 69 funny 5 stars
6/16/01 sarah smarter than the average spoof. plus, val kilmer=comedy gold, no? 5 stars
4/18/01 Cardigan Easily the best and most surreal of its kind. The more drunk you are the funnier it gets! 5 stars
4/01/01 Jesse L Funny! YES!!! 5 stars
10/17/00 Croweater Silliness in the extreme. Good stuff! ;-) 4 stars
8/06/00 D. Classic comedy 5 stars
2/25/00 Bozo I know a little German....he's right over there! this movie is mad funny 5 stars
1/09/00 unstrung almost as good as 84 ripley 5 stars
11/06/99 Meepos A funny movie, the type of which they just don't make no mo'. 4 stars
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  02-Mar-1984 (PG)



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