DVD Review: Top Secret! -- I Love the 80's Widescreen Edition

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"How silly can you get?" is not just the name of the song sung by the '80s hybrid version of Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys all rolled into the character Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer in his very first role), but essentially the ongoing quest from filmmakers Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker with their bizarre German spy comedy Top Secret!

While the filmmakers have vocally shared their displeasure with the finished product and as Christopher Null reported on FilmCritic.com ultimately "most of [their]... cast went AWOL the day production wrapped," it's nonetheless turned into a cult favorite among some ardent fans including Roger Ebert who penned a three and a half star love letter to the work back in its 1984 release.

Overall, the type of movie that has viewers split down the middle into love it or hate it, unfortunately-- catching it for the first time ever here in 2009-- I'm more more prone to go towards the latter category, sadly only recalling three to five major laughs in its ninety minute running time which-- given the filmmakers' noted five-gags-a-minute approach established in Airplane! and The Naked Gun, is nowhere near enough to recommend it.

The film's tagline which announced "Movie? What movie?" seemed to make as much sense as its nonsensical plot of which neither Roger Ebert nor Christopher Null could recount either and is summed up in one sentence on the box from the newest Paramount release in VH1's ongoing "I Love the 80's" collection (despite the fact that it should read '80s).

Ostensibly about a young rock 'n roll singer who personifies a more right wing version of The Beach Boys in his introductory hit which finds him skeet shooting while surfing (despite the fact that in 1984, Elvis and The Beach Boys as well as beach movies were at least two decades old from making successful movie fodder)-- Rivers ends up filling in for Leonard Bernstein at an East German cultural festival.

Obviously, it's only a matter of time until he finds himself embroiled in a covert spy scheme as he assists a beautiful young woman on the hunt for her missing scientist father, joins the resistance, and of course, manages to find time to amuse with some show-stopping numbers.

Nailing the Elvis hip swivel-- Kilmer's natural charisma is what shines through and the film's high points are felt every single time the plot is stopped for one more number as the over-the-top singer goes so into the character of his songs that he pulls a girl out of the audience to croon his wish to spend the night with her (let alone that he made the foolish choice of selecting a girl who easily looks twelve) and feigning suicide onstage until his band and roadies pull his head out of ovens and body off of the railroad tracks that travel with him for his performances.

Spoofing everything from Casablanca to The Blue Lagoon, Top Secret! also features an amazing cameo by Omar Sharif (amazing-- that is-- that he would actually be in the film's veritable disaster yet perhaps this explains his immediate departure from the set as well). And when I did my homework to see just where the funny fell apart, I found that it would've probably played much better if I was familiar with Yiddish which is seasoned throughout that-- when translated-- definitely adds more laughs to the piece.

Sadly, despite the attempt by an earnest and wildly talented Kilmer (that makes it worth a painful look just for his fans), it's a non-comedy that fits its poster's "Shhh!" header completely as-- instead of this mess-- for Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker at they're finest, I'll choose Airplane! every time. Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop watching that one... to misquote Lloyd Bridges... oh yeah, and "Don't call me Shirley."