'Hot Shots! Part Deux': Laughter's better the second time around

Attention! Do not look down into your popcorn box for the last few kernels while watching "Hot Shots! Part Deux," even for a few seconds. You will miss at least a couple of gags.

Then again, you have seen their like before.


Yes, the sequel to "Hot Shots" from director/writer Jim Abrahams follows the 1991 sendup of "Top Gun." It also fits right in with the "Naked Gun" and "Airplane" series, upon which Mr. Abrahams worked with those wild and crazy brothers, David and Jerry Zucker.

And like its predecessors, the new movie follows the carpet-bombing theory: Unload a belly-full of sight gags, puns, body function jokes, silly stunts, lampoons of other films and juvenile sexual innuendo, and you will score some belly laughs.


"Hot Shots! Part Deux" hits about a third of the time, somewhat better than average for these films, which makes it pretty funny. If memory serves, the laughs come more often than with its predecessor.

Just as the "Airplane" movies spoofed the melodramatic "Airport" series and "Naked Gun" took on cop films, "Hot Shots! Part Deux" targets absurd action movies in general and the "Rambo" series in particular.

The comic-book absurdity of the Sylvester Stallone/Steven Seagal/Chuck Norris fraternity makes that a daunting task. But the film manages it.

Mr. Sheen, who again plays taciturn hero Topper Harley, looks like a Rambo action toy. He has pumped up considerably since the first film. His pecs threaten to burst his tank top, his long hair is wrapped in a sweatband and he carries a knife the size of your average medieval broadsword.

Richard Crenna cements the "Rambo" connection, of course, playing virtually the same character he did in those movies.

The plot? Action Adventure 2B, the hostage-rescue scenario, Middle East edition.

Mr. Crenna's Col. Denton Walters -- a great word play, by the way, on the actor's earliest role as adenoidal high school student Walter Denton in "Our Miss Brooks" -- is a tough military commander captured in one of several failed raids to reclaim prisoners from the Persian Gulf war.

"I see you're no stranger to pain," a torturer sneers at one point.


"I've been married, twice," retorts the colonel. (See? Old, old jokes.)

At the addled behest of President Tug Benson (Lloyd Bridges, in another likeably lunatic turn), Topper leaves an Asian monastery to lead another raid, in company with a bombshell CIA operative (Brenda Bakke, as Michelle Rodham Huddleston).

He still suffers romance flashbacks to his beloved from the first movie (Valeria Golino, as Ramada Rodham Hayman), but it should be no surprise he meets her again.

"It's a sequel. I had to come," she tells him.

Hey, the first movie was a modest hit. There had to be a sequel.

A preview audience groaned appropriately at some of the cruder humor, picked up the product placement satire of Saddam Hussein's refrigerator (he has 2% Camel's Milk, Falafel Helper and Saharan Wrap), and even appreciated a rare literary reference. (Topper is reading "Great Expectations" but tells someone, "It's not all I'd hoped for.")


But you have to watch closely to catch some sight gags, such as a quick look at a strategic map, where the raid's target lies between two countries labeled "Iraq" and "A Hard Place."

'Hot Shots! Part Deux'

Starring Charlie Sheen, Lloyd Bridges, Valeria Golino, Brenda Bakke and Richard Crenna

Directed by Jim Abraham

Released by Twentieth Century Fox

Rated PG-13


** 1/2