Top Secret! (1984) / Comedy-Musical
MPAA Rated: PG for some sexual humor and some language
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Christopher Villiers, Jeremy Kemp, Peter Cushing, Warren Clarke, Harry Ditson, Jim Carter, Eddie Tagoe, Omar Sharif, Michael Gough
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Screenplay: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Martyn Burke
Review published November 22, 2004
Top Secret! is another laugh-a-minute screwball comedy from the comic minds of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, the trio that brought you Airplane! This time out, they skewer a variety of targets, predominantly war films (World War II, generally), musicals, and pop idols of the 50s (Elvis, mostly). As with their previous efforts, the kitchen sink approach applies, where they throw so many jokes at you, if only one in ten actually makes you laugh, you'll still be laughing throughout. It's also notable for the debut of Val Kilmer (Heat, Top Gun), and although he was a newcomer, this still ranks as one of his most memorable roles.
Please excuse me if this plotline is a bit shaky. This is the kind of movie where you don't really pay attention to the plot, as you're so busy looking for the next sight gag, you tend to stop paying attention to such things. Kilmer plays American pop sensation, Nick Rivers, who is flown into East Germany to provide a diversion, while they stealthily attempt to steal some nearby NATO submarines with some newfangled contraption they have secured from a local scientist (Gough, Batman). Rivers falls for the scientist's daughter (Gutteridge), who, along with the French Resistance, aim to thwart the Germans before they succeed.
Now that I have the plot out of the way (sort of), I'm ready to recommend Top Secret! as one of the most funny, and perhaps most overlooked, films of the mid-80s. It's a silly, but completely inspired comedy that should have most laughing from the sheer audacity of the different comedic styles, and also features a standout breakthrough performance by Val Kilmer, showing charisma and a great sense of comedic timing that he has yet to replicate in any film since. (Trivia: Kilmer and Gough would reunite a decade later as Bruce Wayne and Alfred in Batman Forever).
Top Secret! may forever be overshadowed by its brethren, Airplane! and The Naked Gun, but in my opinion, it stacks up well right along with them. It's a funny, energetic, and easy-spirited comedy that makes you smile with juvenile charm, and holds up well with repeated viewings.
©2004 Vince Leo