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Top Secret

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG

Running Time: 90 minutes

Starring: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge

Written by: Jim Abrahamas, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Marty Burke

Directed by: Jim Abrahamas, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Jim Abrahamas, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; Producers Jon Davison and Hunt Lowry; and Moderator Fred Rubin, Four Alternate Scenes, Storyboards, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (28 Scenes)

Released: July 16th, 2002

 

 

Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is a popular American rock and roll singer. In the vein of Elvis almost, he sure loves to sing about skeeting and surfing. Rivers is invited to perform in East Germany, but it's really a set-up for German propaganda. Soon, Nick joins the resistance against the bad guys as he matches wits and falls in love with Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge), as the two team up to save her father before he can create the deady Polaris Mine.

Yep, this is another fine parody flick from Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker and that's far much as the plot goes. Of course, it's mainly a device for a bunch of many, different jokes. While "Airplane!" lampooned distaster flicks, "Top Secret!" makes fun of those loose Elvis movies and those gung-ho, "good vs. evil" war movies. With that, the team succeeds in a crazy plotline that somehow seems ridiculous, but you buy into it (you should since the film never takes itself seriously). I guess the idea of some American icon joining a rebellion against evil has been done before, but with the rock star bits and evil German stuff it's really well done here.

Still, it's not just early pop Americana and those big war films that are parodied here. There are a host of other film references, wacky humor, slapstick comedy and a bunch of out of the oridnary things: videogames, television shows, and other stuff that are somehow really well integrated into the film that are completley genuine. I'm a pop culture and movie junkie, and I still think I missed a few references in the movie. Still, there are a ton of funny bits from Abarahams, the Zuckers and Marty Burke. There are all sorts of kinds of humor to be found here: in-jokes, visual jokes, broad slapstick and much more. It's just a lot of fun.

The performances here are just as good as the jokes. Val Kilmer made his feature acting debut in the film, and he does a pretty solid, if a little uneven job as Nick. There are some scenes where he's pretty confident, others where he's a little stiff. Still, it's truly a cool performance. Lucy Gutteridge is fine as the love interest, while the other performances from Omar Sharif, Jeremy Kemp, among others, are also nice. Like the film itself, the acting is fun and over the top. So if you like parodies, the work of these filmmakers or just need some fun laughs, "Top Secret!" will always be worth looking into.

 

"Top Secret" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it looks pretty good for the most part. It's a bit grainy, but it often looks pretty soft. Detail isn't so great in it, while color saturation is a bit underwhelming. Fleshtones are pretty decent, but it's plagued with pieces of dirt, blemishes, nicks, scratches and a lot of other marks on the print. It just looks very un-Paramount. It doesn't pop out at you, isn't too sharp and looks pretty flat. Still, despite the flaws and plainess, it could be worse.

 

"Top Secret" features a rather strong 5.1 Dolby Digital surround remix, and I was pretty amazed how great it sounded. Comedies don't often make great mixes, let alone, some remixes can be hard to pull off. Still, "Top Secret!" in 5.1 sounds pretty fresh, and it certainly got me into the movie more. It's pretty loud, and the track certainly booms with flavor. Be it the slapstick gags, train rustlings, the excellent Maurice Jarre score, punches, fighting... there is great mixing all around and nice seperational effects. Dynamic range and fidelity is pretty excellent, while dialogue is crisp and clear. Everything is nicely seperated and doesn't overpower the other elements. It sounds a bit artificial, but it works fine for what it is and is pretty impressive overall. Also included are English subtitles, English closed captions, a French mono track and an English Dolby surround track.

 

There are some nifty, if not simple supplements here. No matter, it's better than nothing and adds more bang to the buck. The main thing here is the Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Jim Abrahamas, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; Producers Jon Davison and Hunt Lowry; and Moderator Fred Rubin. This is a very solid track, despite the dead air here and there. I do like it when multiple participants get together for a group track, especially when they're all together and not edited. There are fun stories here about the movie, as they point out the film's references, joke around and have an overall good time. They have a lot of interesting stuff to say on many different topics. You can tell they all like their work and had fun making it.

There are Four Alternate Scenes: "One Little Apple," "Fetch," "Thirsty" and "Burning Passion." These are actually more like deleted scenes, and are presented in anamorphic widescreen and are in pretty good quality. The scenes are pretty fun, and are short. We also have three Storyboards to view (actually more like storyboard sequences): "Skeet Surfing," "The Nightclub" and "Nick In Prison." Finally, we have the Theatrical Trailer in anamorphic widescreen.

 

While it's not my favorite Zucker Brothers/Jim Abrahams film, "Top Secret!" certainly is funny and will always have its many fans among moviegoers. The presentation of the movie is quite good while the supplements are ultimately satisfying. Fans of this cult classic are sure to pick it up, but if you like the work of the filmmakers and parody movies in general, it's still worth checking out.