Top Secret!

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Believe it or not, those ZAZ (Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker) guys are back, albeit with a different movie this time. They truly made their name wtih movies like "Kentucky Fried Movie" and one of my all-time favorites, "Airplane!". Their follow-up effort came a few years later with a rising young star by the name of Val Kilmer. Kilmer in a very early role showed his range as a comedic actor, but as the guys admit in the commentary, the movie wasn’t that great, it didn’t make that much money and that it had more "jokes" than that of Airplane! but the story wasn’t nearly as strong. But I found it funny and it’s a good time to sit back and have a few giggles. As we all know, they’re also responsible for the hilarious "Naked Gun" series, which took them a step up from this movie. Though the jokes are dated, the main country that the film takes place in (East Germany) no longer exists, let’s take you through what is Top Secret!

Val Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, a popular rock n’ roll star in America who has a style very similar of "The Beach Boys". His songs, "Skeet City" and "Skeetin’ U.S.A." are on top of the charts. The East Germans want Leonard Bernstein to perform, but he is unable to make it. So Nick is called up and before he knows it, he’s in East Germany and gets himself into a lot of trouble! He meets up with Hillary Flammond (Lacy Gutteridge), whose father has been kidnapped and imprisoned by the East Germans. As it turns out, he was about to create a machine that could extract the salt from the ocean water and therefore help save some starving nations. Nick gets in trouble with the government and before he knows it, he’s thrown in jail (albeit for a few minutes). They meet up with a group of rather interesting rebels and have to save the damsel in distress and rescue her father.

In a nutshell, that’s the plot. But what we rely on is the physical, slapstick humor that the ZAZ guys have proven time and time again to work. In this case it does…sort of. I had not seen the film in about ten years, as I feel "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun" are much funnier movies; then again they seemed to rely on the plot just as much as the humor. Everything from crude animal humor, to physical gags are used and most of it to a great extent. I found myself chuckling out loud, but a lot of the jokes are very dated and it might lose some of its impact on today’s target audience (the "target audience" of the time is now my age)! All in all, it’s a funny movie, there are funnier, but some of the gags are timeless. If only to see a very young Val Kilmer in action, check this out.

Video: How does it look?

Top Secret! has been shown in an anamorphic ratio of 1.78:1. As with most of Paramount’s releases of their extensive catalog, the image is good for the most part but does seem to have a bit of a problem with edge enhancement. Again, the colors are a bit dull and muted and this also has a bit of a "soft" feel to it. Still, the image has never looked better and I can’t seem to recall if the LaserDisc was in widescreen or not. Some of the gags to work a bit better with the width of the screen (it sounds funny, but it’s true) and it’s another testament to anamorphic widescreen.

Audio: How does it sound?

I do have to say that I was pretty impressed with the sound here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a very robust depth that I didn’t expect of a movie of this age. Add to that the fact that comedies aren’t usually noted for their sound, the track had some instances that made me crane my head just to see if that was really all that sound coming from my speakers! Dialogue is crisp and it’s a good thing too, you won’t miss any of the jokes that way! Overall, a nice mix that had me very surprised. It’s certainly not reference material, but you’ll get a little more bang for your buck here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Paramount has actually added a few features to this disc and the most notable is the group commentary track with the Zuckers and Jim Abrahams. As in their previous tracks for the Naked Gun trilogy and Airplane! they seem to be a bit critical of their work as they chuckle as to what’s happening on screen. They dog their own movie, but in the end seem like they wasted their time. "We can take about 25 minutes of this and perhaps splice it together into a good movie" they end on. I enjoyed the track, as there were a few silent spots, but they give a pretty good commentary. Some storyboards are also included as is the theatrical trailer. Lastly, there are four additional scenes "One little apple", "Fetch", "Thirsty" and "Burning Passion" that don’t really add a whole lot. Surprisingly they are presented in anamorphic widescreen which is a big bonus! All in all, fans of the movie will want to get their hands on this disc, but if you’ve never seen the film and want a good couple of laughs…check it out as a rental first.

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