(2002) - Paramount
by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
90 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 46:31 in chapter
17), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track (with
writers/directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and
producers Jon Davison and Hunt Lowry), 4 deleted scenes, theatrical
trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters),
languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD mono),
subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
is sauerkraut in my lederhosen..."
I've taken quite a bit of guff from certain readers for my less
than flattering reviews of such comedic faux pas as
Dude, Where's My Car and
2000's remake of Bedazzled.
Infuriated fans of those (*ahem*) comedies demand to know what
exactly I think is funny, if I even have a sense of humor at all,
and how much cyanide it would take to kill me. So, for all you
skeptics out there, I give you Top
Secret!. Brought to you by the geniuses that are Jim
Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker, Top
Secret! doesn't stray too far from the pun-heavy,
sight-gag-laced style of the trio's better known films, such as
Kentucky Fried Movie,
Naked Gun. As much as I love
those films - which I consider comedic classics -
Top Secret! is my favorite of
the bunch, and one of my top three favorite comedies of all time
(because you asked, the other two are the Marx Brothers'
Animal Crackers and Woody
Allen's Love and Death).
Top Secret! is a bit more
story-driven than other ZAZ films, but it's nothing too hard to keep
up with. Val Kilmer makes his big screen debut here, playing
American rock sensation Nick Rivers, who is invited to oppressive
East Germany during the 1950s to perform in a cultural celebration.
However, this particular celebration is a front for the evil
government to unleash an attack against U.S. and NATO forces. Nick -
a wisecrackin' kid with authority issues - stumbles upon the
beautiful, busty Hillary (Lucy Gutteridge), who is part of the
French resistance force fighting the oppressive government. The
Germans have kidnapped Hillary's scientist father and forced him to
create the secret weapon with which they will pull off their
dastardly plot. So it's up to Nick, Hillary and their French rebel
pals (Chocolát Mousse, Soufflé, Montage, Déjà
vu, Latrine and the rest of the gang) to foil the wicked plot.
The humor in Top Secret! is
almost all visual. Some witticism and puns are thrown in for good
measure, but for the most part, sight gags abound. Like any comedy
out there, not every joke works, but a good 90-95% work... and work
in a big way. The humor is clever, perfectly timed and even
occasionally cerebral. While some jokes are predictable (a comedy
sin), the vast majority are unexpected and seem like tasty surprises
when they're revealed. The comedic performances of the main cast are
all wonderful, while Peter Cushing and Omar Sharif - two names not
exactly associated with "funny" - also turn in
surprisingly adept performances.
The only aspects of this film holding it back from near perfection
are the four or so musical performances scattered within. In this
film, Kilmer is a cross between Elvis Presley and Brian Wilson, and
he performs several ditties throughout (Val "Jim Morrison"
Kilmer sings all of the numbers himself). While the numbers are fun,
they're not particularly funny, and hold back the pace of the film
(all except Nick's Macy's jingle, which is one of the film's
highlights). If they were cut, the flick would probably run fewer
than 80-minutes, however unnecessary padding never made a film
For an 18-year-old film, Top Secret!
looks quite nice on DVD. While the transfer does show off the film's
age, with slightly muted colors, there's still much to like. The
source master used is in remarkably good shape, as no overt
blemishes or scratches hamper the experience. While grain is
apparent, it's not excessive given the film source. The picture
isn't razor-sharp-perfect, but hey - it's an 18-year-old film!
Simply put, Top Secret! has
never looked better.
The brand new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a pleasant surprise. The
numerous action sequences in the film light up the soundstage, while
the musical numbers have never sounded so sweet. I never thought I'd
hear Skeet Surfin' in surround
sound! Time, once again, rears its ugly head in the sound mix, as
the overall track has a slightly sibilant tone that today's
blockbuster surround sound mixes lack. But, c'mon!
Skeet Surfin' in surround
sound! You know you can't resist...
While not overflowing with supplements, fans of
Top Secret! do get an
entertaining audio commentary track with writers/directors Jim
Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, and producers Jon Davison
and Hunt Lowry. The ZAZ trio are quite funny and self-deprecating
while they talk about the film's disappointing run at the box
office. It's not quite the laugh fest their tracks on
Naked Gun and
Airplane are, but it's still
well worth a listen. Paramount has also included four deleted
scenes, which are nothing to write home about, but are a very nice
inclusion for fans. Last but not least, look for the film's
If you like to laugh (and who doesn't?), then you owe it to
yourself to check out Top Secret!.
While not as well known as Airplane
and Naked Gun, it's every bit
as good, if not better. Buy this disc right now, or I'll put your
name on the Neiman-Marcus mailing list...