Top Secret! (1984)

Though still remarkably funny and amusing, there is no denying that Top Secret! is a bit of a mess narratively. Airplane! worked so well because it has a very clear and simple core story (ie. it specifically is spoofing, as well as remaking, the 1957 disaster movie Zero Hour! to almost verbatim) to tell which enabled a lot of witty jokes to be added into each nook and cranny. Here, even the makers thenselves basically have admitted that they didn’t really have a clue what the movie was about and they just strung it together with as many jokes as possible. Hence why we get such a confusing cluster of genres squeezed together that narratively make very little sense, with no indication of an actual coherent, overarching story nowhere in sight.

Now, I actually quite enjoyed the bizarre mixing of a World War II resistance story, Elvis movies and contemporary international spy thriller, due to how jarring the contrast is. It’s all insanely nonsensical, but somehow it for the most part works out in the movie’s favor. I especially loved how they had Soviet controlled East-Germany depicted as if it somehow was still Nazi Germany, but their evil plan was clearly very contemporary with them trying to sink the NATO fleet, the ridiculousness of it never stopped being funny.

The visual gags are all around brilliant, and in doing so heavily underline just how wrong  of a turn the spoof genre has taken since the Scary Movie franchise went and stupefied it, and I say that as someone who still enjoys   watching the first two installments. If you do referential humor, the joke needs to be funny in the context of the movie itself so even if you don’t get the reference itself you’ll still be able laugh at the joke. Top Secret! doing a ridiculous The Blue Lagoon spoof works because it’s a two part joke. Firstly it works as a silly, nonsense backstory for Hillary, and secondly it’s also a completely ludicrous set up to a later joke in the scene where Hillary and Nick are introduced to Nigel, the leader of the French resistance, as Nigel is revealed to actually be the very same guy that was in the The Blue Lagoon flashback sequence, and he’s hilariously still wearing the exact same native leaf loincloth even after all these years.

With little ironing this could have easily become as iconic and fondly remembered as the Naked Gun films. As it stands now, it’s funny but the lack of a coherent central plot drags it down a peg and it just isn’t as consistently funny and entertaining as it could have been. It’s still worth seeing just for Val Kilmer doing several musical numbers and acting all dumb Elvis like.


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