One of the earliest Lost in Translation reviews was The Naked Gun, the film adaptation of the very short-lived TV series, Police Squad. The TV series was cancelled because the network, ABC, felt that people wouldn’t pay enough attention to get the comedy in the show. At the time, they may have been right; Police Squad has background gags, foreground gags, brick jokes, and throwaway lines that a TV audience of the era might have missed while using their TVs as background noise for the household. Movies don’t have that problem; no one is paying movie theatre prices to ignore the movie.

Leslie Nielsen started his switch from serious actor to comedic with Airplane!. The directors, Zucker, Abrams, and Zucker, discovered that they and Nielsen share a sense of humour, so they created a vehicle for him, Police Squad. In 1988, the first of the series, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad, was released. The movie was essentially a longer version of a Police Squad episode with a higher budget and the guest star not dying in the opening credits.

In changing from serious to comedic actor, Nielsen never really changed his acting style. He approached playing Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective-Lieutenant of Police Squad the same way he approached his serious roles, playing the character straight. No winks or nods to the audience. Nielsen, along with Lloyd Bridges and Peter Graves, used the same approach in Airplane!, taking the weirdness around them in stride like it was completely normal.

The last of the movies, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult was released in 1994. That puts the movie series out from 28 to 34 years ago, which is about when films are considered for a remake. As it turns out, there are plans for a Naked Gun reboot, with Liam Neeson mentioned as being the son of Frank Drebin.

It is far too early to say if the remake is going to be good or bad. It will depend on the writing, the cast, the crew, the budget, and the timing. However, Liam Neeson is known as a serious actor. His memorable roles, from an IRA terrorist in an episode of Miami Vice through portraying Etham Frome and Rob Roy, to being a Jedi Knight, Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, and a father hunting the men who kidnapped his family. However, he also played Bad Cop, Good Cop, and Pa Cop in The LEGO Movie, with the same intensity as his more serious roles. What worked in the original Police Squad was the actors taking the roles seriously, despite the situation. Neeson just needs to use the same approach he used with his previous roles. He is a good choice for the role. Neeson won’t replace Leslie Nielsen, but he can add to the legacy.

Derry Girls S3, ep1. (L-R) Inspector Byers (Liam Neeson), Officer Lennox (Michael Byers)

The other question with a Naked Gun remake is, will “Weird Al” Yankovic have a cameo? “Weird Al” played himself in the first and third movies and held up the Police Squad in the second. Al has a large fanbase who will see a movie or TV show because he’s in it. That’s an audience who is primed for humour, so ignoring it is a risk.

It is too soon to know whether the remake of The Naked Gun will succeed. Liam Neeson could use the new movie as a way to get more comedic roles if he wanted. Just having him as the lead shows some thought about casting is happening. Time will tell.


This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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