Do yourself a favor and go watch National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 right now. Seriously. It’s on Netflix and it’s probably also at your local library. This is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and I don’t want you to miss out on it. Anyone who says the film parody died after 1980’s Airplane! has probably never seen this 1993 gem of a film.
I’m not a fan of practically any parody released in the past decade, but there were plenty of funny ones in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And Loaded Weapon 1 is definitely among the best. It pokes fun at a genre that is ripe for the picking: the buddy-cop action film. It specifically targets Lethal Weapon and its first two sequels, as well as a few others like Silence of the Lambs, Basic Instinct and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ll mainly talk about my favorite jokes in this movie to explain why I like it.
A Word About Lethal Weapon
I don’t really like the Lethal Weapon films. I saw the first one, and I thought it was okay, but I don’t know why some people say it’s better than the first Die Hard or even on the same level as other classic ‘80s action films. It’s just average, and the characters are actually surprisingly forgettable. Honestly, I don’t remember anything that Mel Gibson’s character says in the whole film, and all I remember about Danny Glover’s character is that he’s constantly complaining about something. The torture scene is almost unwatchable, too. This whole movie is just a thoroughly unpleasant viewing experience.
That’s not to say Richard Donner isn’t incredibly talented. He directed one of my favorite movies of all time, Superman: The Movie. But he didn’t do a good job here. Just a side note: because I didn’t watch any of the Lethal Weapon sequels, some of the subtle jokes based on them were probably lost on me. I know Jon Lovitz is supposed to be poking fun at Joe Pesci’s annoying side character, but that’s the extent of my knowledge of the sequels. With that in mind, let’s delve into Loaded Weapon 1.
Just so there’s no confusion about what I’m talking about, I’ll give a brief overview of Loaded Weapon 1’s plot. I’ll just use the actors’ names since the characters’ names aren’t terribly memorable. Samuel L. Jackson is a cop investigating the murder of his former partner Whoopi Goldberg. Against his will, he gets partnered with suicidally depressed detective Emilio Estevez. Together, Jackson and Estevez crack the case and figure out Goldberg was killed by drug boss William Shatner after she learned he’s hiding cocaine in Girl Scout-type cookies. Hijinks ensue, and they wind up breaking up the drug ring.
Just from the title, you get an inkling of how funny this movie is going to be. Who puts a 1 in the title (except for George Lucas, of course)? Other parodies wait until the sequel to start adding silliness to their titles: Airplane II: The Sequel, The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear, Hot Shots! Part Deux, Scary Movie 2… wait, scratch that. I forgot that in the past decade all the creativity in parody films went down the drain.
The fact that Loaded Weapon 1 bombed and they never made any sequels makes the title even funnier. It’s the first part… of a non-existent movie series. Now that’s comedy.
The Best Joke
It’s hard to describe exactly why this movie works. It’s full of wackiness and lunacy, and it doesn’t waste too much time on grotesque or sexual jokes, which I’m grateful for. If I had to pick one scene, in particular, which cemented my love for this movie, I’d have to choose the one with the helicopter and the trailer. Estevez is getting too close to the bad guys, so they send a guy with a machine gun in a helicopter to take him out. He shows up at what we assume to be Estevez’ trailer on a beach and starts shooting a ridiculous number of holes in it and he even blows it up in spectacular fashion. When the smoke clears, a white surrender flag is waving desperately, and we see a disheveled Bruce Willis wearing his signature Die Hard wife beater rising from the wreckage. He demands to know what the heck the guy in the helicopter is doing. The shooter figures out he’s at the wrong address and he gives a short apology before moving on. Willis looks at the devastation around him and says, “No problem!”
This is such a hilarious scene to me. Everything about it is perfect. Willis’ cameo comes out of nowhere, but it fits perfectly with the subject matter. The scene fools the audience and it has a great payoff. Plus, I think it’s so funny to think of poor Willis just sitting at home minding his own business when suddenly someone shows up and just blows his place to smithereens – for no reason! He’s not related to the bad guys’ plot at all and yet they still find a way to bother him. Action heroes never get a break, do they?
No matter how many times I see this movie I always crack up at several jokes. The one I mentioned with Willis is, of course, at the top of this list. I’ll describe a few others you can look forward to:
Cream Me Up, Scotty! The police captain is taking Jackson on a tour of the police station and offering him all sorts of food on a buffet table. But when he tries to use the espresso machine, it malfunctions. So what does the police captain do? He yells for Scotty to come and fix it, and actor James Doohan actually appears and gives the standard Scotty reply, “I’m giving it all she’s got, captain!” Somehow the filmmakers managed to tap into my 12-year-old brain and do exactly what I thought they should do in that situation. Bravo! Also, it’s interesting to note that Doohan and William Shatner were technically reunited in this film between their appearances in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and 1994’s Star Trek Generations.
Attack of the Explosions. I love pointless explosions. I find it extremely comical when something explodes for seemingly no reason at all, just because it looks cool. Loaded Weapon 1 has plenty of gags involving these. The funniest comes when a valet gets blown up trying to bring Estevez and Jackson their car. The filmmakers aren’t content with just one explosion, though. Jackson calls for a taxi and for no reason the taxi he calls erupts in a fiery blaze. Later, they confiscate two kids’ bikes, and the bikes promptly blow up, as well! Estevez courageously boasts in his tough-guy voice, “It’s gonna take a lot more than a couple of car bombs to get us off this case!” But Jackson responds more practically, “Not a heck of a lot more.” I love the contrast between the two characters in that scene. Estevez is a cliché, but Jackson is closer to how a normal person would react.
We’re Being Followed. You know how in many action movies, the hero has a chase scene to try to shake some bad guys who are following him? This movie turns that concept on its head. Jackson and Estevez are driving along when suddenly they spot some people following them. They look back and see two masked killers in their backseat. They try to act naturally until Jackson swerves and starts speeding off in the opposite direction. Suddenly the masked guys are no longer in the backseat. How did they get back there and where did they go? Who knows? For some reason, that little scene makes me laugh every time, though.
Tim Curry. Every scene with Tim Curry is a delight. He dresses as a sort-of Girl Scout to kill Whoopi Goldberg at the start. We’ve seen this kind of scene a million times before. The villain is supposed to intimidate an innocent victim into giving him vital information, then kill them and leave. However, things don’t turn out quite the way we expect. Curry first asks Goldberg for a name and then shoots her. Job done. But then he turns around and asks for a little clarification of who she meant and shoots her again. Okay, he’s finished now, right? Wrong! He asks her which street the man lives on and shoots her again! All told, he shoots her four times before finally leaving! Boy, is that overkill.
There are so many other great moments, like the one where he tells Estevez, “I’m your worst nightmare,” and Estevez quickly corrects him. There are a lot of throwaway gags like this one, and I’m sure you’ll love them when you see them.
Whoopi Goldberg. Whenever Goldberg shows up, she steals the scene, even when she’s dead! Now that’s impressive work. In a flashback, she screams at Jackson to shoot a mime who’s holding a gun (which is just his finger) to her head. It’s stupid, but also very funny. In another scene the police coroner deems Goldberg’s death a suicide, even though she was shot multiple times from a distance and she has a frozen look of terror on her face. “She must have taken herself by surprise,” Jackson notes. Nice police work.
William Shatner and the Piranha. In his first scene, William Shatner decides to show off what a tough guy he is by comparing himself to a deadly piranha in a fish tank. Based on this setup, we know one of two things is going to happen here: 1. The fish are going to menace each other symbolically, or 2. The bad guy is going to get his hand stuck in the fish’s mouth and have to comically extricate it. Been there, done that. But this film has other ideas. Surprising everyone in the room, Shatner shoves his face into the fish tank and has an epic fight before emerging victorious with the piranha in his mouth. It takes just a few seconds, but it establishes the villain as both hilarious and a force to be reckoned with, sort of like Lex Luthor’s introduction in Superman.
CHiPs Cameo. Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, the two motorcycle cops from the classic TV show CHiPs, make brilliant cameos during a shootout. To get his partner’s attention, Estrada actually shoots a bullet near Wilcox’s head! I heard that these characters never actually used their guns in the TV show, so it’s pretty crazy to see them using their weapons so cavalierly in this scene. And it’s great to see them back in action one more time.
Not So Fast! That’s Better
National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I isn’t a perfect movie. It’s a silly comedy, and it doesn’t aspire to be anything beyond that. I can respect that. For what it is, I think it’s great. I don’t know why it doesn’t get more attention when it has way more successful jokes than most other comedies. It’s in the same vein as the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker parodies, so if you enjoyed those movies you’ll definitely like this one. Check it out!
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.