Hot Shots! (1991)

Film review: Hot Shots! (1991), directed by Jim Abrahams

In the early 1990s, before Charlie Sheen lost the plot, he starred in two classic comedies: Hot Shots! and its sequel. The first film is a piss-take of Top Gun. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve seen Top Gun for about 20 years, so I can’t say how closely the plot is mirrored.

Top pilot Liutenant Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) has been on a career break, as it were, because of father issues. His dad was responsible for another man’s death, and this has haunted Topper to the point of being virtually unable to fly. Instead, he’s sought refuge in a Native American camp. One day, Lt Cmdr James Block (Kevin Dunn) comes to visit, saying the military want him back.

And so, Topper returns to base, only to find a nemesis – Kent Gregory (Cary Elwes), the son of the pilot Harley Sr reportedly failed to save. On the plus side, he also finds Ramada (Valeria Golino), the beautiful shrink …

Also starring Jon Cryer as Wash Out, William O’Leary as Dead Meat, Kristy Swanson as Kowalski, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr as Wilson, with the inimitable Lloyd Bridges as Admiral Benson.

Let’s face it, the plot you could write down on the back of a napkin, but that’s not really the point with this film. Hot Shots! is made to amuse the audience while poking fun at other films, and making lots of visual gags in the background. As such, it works really well, and now, many, many years after the first time I saw it (and yes, I’ve seen it multiple times), it still tickles my funny bone.

The visual gags I mentioned run from seeing soldiers through a window going from exercising to cancan dancing, to “how’s my flying” stickers and so on. The fun-poking is relentless. There’s a running gag of people sitting on a little chichuahua without seeing it, which technically isn’t funny in itself, but becomes funny by repetition.

Gosh, I’m totally over-analysing this, which is something I thought I’d never say about anything.

Hot Shots! is funny. Unfortunately, it sparked a lot of films with bold, red letters on their posters (i.e. the Scary Movie franchise, etc.), which attempt to do the same thing, but lack the … finesse of this film. Hot Shots! is much in the style of Airplane!, another very funny film, where it seems a bit of effort has gone into the details to make them properly funny. Some things might be there simply “for teh lulz” but … it’s difficult to explain. Scary Movie (et al) takes the same concept, only bastardising it and making it cheap and tacky.

But there you go. The comedic timing of Cary Elwes is always worth watching at any time of day or year. Also, in 1991, Charlie Sheen was a dish.

3.7 out of 5 sabotaged missions.

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