Opinion

Liam Neeson To Star In “Naked Gun” Reboot

Paramount Pictures sure knows how to get the attention of comedy fans. The second oldest studio in the United States got us all talking yesterday when they announced that The Naked Gun would be getting a reboot.

The franchise has been dormant since its final entry in 1994. Thirty years have gone by since we last saw Detective Frank Drebin bumble his way to glory. Despite that time gap, the franchise is a mainstay in many home video libraries and remains beloved by fans. 

The series is based off of the short-lived 1982 television show Police Squad! which only ran for one season on the ABC network before it was cancelled. The Zucker brothers and Nielsen, who was the star of the series; assumed correctly that the series was ahead of its time and moved forward with plans to adapt it to the big screen.

The Origins Of The “Naked Gun” Franchise Go Back To 1982, When “Police Squad!” Would Air Its First And Only Season On ABC.

Between 1988 and 1994, three films were produced for the Naked Gun Franchise. The budget would be roughly 22 million dollars (just about 46 million dollars adjusted for inflation) per film to make. The box office take for the entire franchise as of 1994 is 477 million dollars without including additional revenue earned from the rental market.

When you adjust it for inflation, the Naked Gun pulled in just under a billion dollars for Paramount in a six-year time frame. While the series never set the world on fire during awards season; it should be acknowledged that all three films were met with positive critical reception and are certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

A Word From Your Humble Writer

It is early in the article, but I have to rip the band aid off right away and ask… Why? I’ve racked my brain trying to find a reason to justify this decision; but I can’t justify this decision.

Leslie Nielsen Portrayed The Bumbling Detective Frank Drebin For The First Three “Naked Gun” movies.

I know what you’re thinking, my loyal readers. You’re thinking: “Oh great. Here comes Ambrose. He’s going to rant about how much he hates reboots. What an original guy.” 

While your assessment of me is on brand nine times out of ten; there are occasions where I like to give the benefit of the doubt before I immediately dunk on a project. It is rare, but it happens.

Let’s take a look at the facts together and see whether or not a reboot of The Naked Gun is worth waiting for.

The Release Date Is A Bold Choice

Right now, not much is known about the movie. They have a confirmed release date; July 18, 2025. I wouldn’t be surprised if that date changes. That puts The Naked Gun right in the eye of the hurricane that is blockbuster season. A-list lead or not; I can’t see any producer worth his salt being confident about a parody film going toe to toe with whatever big budget projects that Disney, Warner and Universal are working on.

James Gunn Plans On Releasing “Superman: Legacy” One Week Before The Reboot Of “The Naked Gun”. Producers Will Probably Want To Move The Film Out Of Superman’s Way.

Superman: Legacy has July 11, 2025 slated as a release date. James Gunn is working diligently to court jaded DCEU fans and bring them back into the theater. Given how his process is going with casting; the film has the potential to be a financial juggernaut. That would put Paramount in a precarious position with the release date selected for The Naked Gun.

I’m sorry, I love Frank Drebin as a character. That being said; Superman: Legacy would have to be a massive dumpster fire for Detective Frank Drebin to unseat Clark Kent at the box office. 

The Production Team

Details on the production team and cast haven’t been fully released. Right now, Liam Neeson is the only confirmed cast member that I can find. Akiva Schaffer; a member of the Lonely Island trio, is serving as writer, director and executive producer. Seth MacFarlane will also serve as a Producer. 

Geeks have a special place in their heart for Seth MacFarlane. That reminds me; if The Orville isn’t renewed for a fourth season, we riot at dawn.

A first draft has been written by Schaffer, who penned it with fellow writers Dan Gregor and Doug Man. Schaffer is no stranger to irreverent, off beat comedy. He writes his share of songs for Lonely Island including their breakout hit; I’m on a BoatHe also knows his way around a movie set. Schaffer has directed cult favorite films such as Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Despite his film’s mediocre performances at the box office; they are funny and very entertaining.

Veteran Writer And Comedian Seth MacFarlane I Serving As Producer of “The Naked Gun”. He brings to the table a careers worth of experience with irreverent comedy.

Dan Gregor and Doug Man are solid choices as cowriters. They have worked with Schaffer previously on Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers. Rescue Rangers was a criminally overlooked film by Disney executives. It is smart, funny, and self-aware. It should have gotten a theatrical release.

The caliber of writing looks like it will meet the needs required to at least provide a passable Naked Gun script. With Seth MacFarlane also on board, you have another comedy veteran who certainly knows what will sell and how to handle a property as beloved as The Naked Gun.

Liam Neeson’s Casting Is More On Brand For The Film Than We Realize.

A lot of people probably see the casting of Liam Neeson as the bumbling Frank Drebin to be out of place. At first glance it is. The casting makes you wonder if Neeson has accrued serious debt and needs money fast. The man who portrayed tragic historical figures such as Michael Collins and Oskar Schindler is doing slapstick comedy? What is going on?

For one thing, The casting has good reasoning behind it. Slapstick comedies and parody films are popular among the geek community, a community that has embraced Neeson and enjoyed geeky roles in films such as

  • Excalibur (1981)
  • Krull (1983)
  • Darkman (1990)
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Batman Begins (2005)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series
  • Clash of The Titans (2010)
  • Wrath of the Titans (2012)
  • Lego Movie (2014
  • Men In Black: International (2019)

So the geeky credentials are there. What is more, is that there are stark similarities between the career trajectories of Neeson and Leslie Nielsen.  

By Being Cast As Detective Frank Drebin, Liam Neeson looks like he is on the same career path as Leslie Nielsen.

My generation knows Leslie Nielsen for his comedic roles and deadpan delivery. The generation that came before me knew Leslie Nielsen as a theatrically trained actor. If you look at Nielsen’s IMDB page; you will find that the early half of his career is comprised of mostly dramatic roles. He also had a knack for playing sinister and villainous characters. This changed when Nielsen  starred in Airplane! and would deliver one of the most iconic lines in the history of comedic film.

The knowledge of Nielsen’s early career tells the tale. The casting of Liam Neeson a veteran dramatic actor entering his later years; as Frank Drebin makes perfect sense.

Leave “Modern Audiences” Out Of  This.

If you’ve ever read my work, firstly; thank you. Secondly, you are very well versed in my disdain of the dreaded “modern audience.” “Modern Audiences” is Hollywood language for: “We took this movie, destroyed its legacy and will bask in your tears. Unless you didn’t see the movie. Then we will blame you for its failure.” (Writers note as someone who interprets the news and breaks it down to explain what said news means to the reader; I draw influence from a lot of sources and content creators. I would like to give a shout out to The Critical Drinker for being an ongoing influence on my work.)

The Jokes That Were Made By The Characters Portrayed By Leslie Nielsen And George Kennedy Would Mostly Be Considered To Be Unacceptable In Today’s Writer’s Room.

The Naked Gun is a quintessential parody franchise. The comedy is irreverent.  No prisoners are taken and everyone in the audience is subject to a joke at their expense. This is where I get apprehensive about a remake of The Naked Gun franchise. Today’s Hollywood doesn’t understand the concept of satire. Everything is taken literally and the terminally online are constantly searching for new ways to be offended.

The Writing Process Isn’t The Same As It Was Thirty Years Ago

You can’t just go into the writers room and let the jokes fly. Everything released for the pleasure of “modern audiences” is carefully manicured. There are lines that can’t be crossed. Things that are acceptable today still run the risk of getting you banned from social media tomorrow. “Modern audiences” have bred a milquetoast catalogue of homogenized goop that has no texture. 

If you produced a script like Blazing Saddles by the great Mel Brooks, you would probably be put on trial for a hate crime.

The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult has Frank Drebin saying in narration: “Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes.”  Today, If such a line were even to be scribbled on a McDonald’s napkin and discovered in the writers room; whoever wrote it would be fired and sentenced to sensitivity training.

To make a successful parody, you need the ability to push the envelope. Writers have to be allowed to shoot from the hip and lampoon all aspects of society. That’s what makes a good parody worth watching. Nothing is sacred, and everyone is fair game. We are ALL in on the joke.

Final Takeaway

On paper, the production seems to be gathering the working parts needed to successfully reboot The Naked Gun. I am ready to be cautiously optimistic about this movie until something that nobody should be forced to remember creeps inside of my head.

That something is the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther starring Steve Martin. This movie had all the tools it needed for success. Shawn Levy is a competent director. Steve Martin is a legendary comedic genius. The movie featured a stellar supporting cast including:

  • Beyonce
  • Kevin Kline
  • Roger Rees
  • Jean Reno
  • Clive Owen
  • Jason Statham

On paper, there is no way you could imagine this movie to be as bad as it actually is. You look at it and see all the makings of an instant classic. What hasn’t been taken into account, is the fact that as great of a comedian as Steve Martin is, he is not Peter Sellers. As capable of a director as Shawn Levy is, he isn’t anywhere near the ballpark that Blake Edwards was playing in. He isn’t even in the same galaxy as Blake Edwards. 

Shawn Levy Couldn’t Fill The Shoes He’s Was Assigned To Fill

Blake Edwards earned a lifetime achievement Oscar for his body of work. His resume is a list of iconic movies and choosing his best work is next to impossible.

Shawn Levy’s greatest achievement so far is winning a Producer’s Guild of America Award for an episode of Stranger Things. I must admit to the lot of you… I have no idea as to what the Producer’s Guild of America Awards are. Judging by the name of it, the award sounds like an excuse for Hollywood to pat themselves on the back.

Levy’s two biggest claims to fame are the Cheaper By The Dozen films, which are arguably the worst two movies that Steve Martin has ever made; and the Night At The Museum series of films. Now, that’s not a complete knock on Shawn Levy. He did a great job with Night At The Museum. The movies are funny, adventurous and highly enjoyable.

However, Night At The Museum is not cut from the same cloth as Breakfast At Tiffany’s or Victor/Victoria.

I take all of this into account as I look at the infancy of this production that appears to have things set up properly. What it boils down to is; Akiva Schaffer is a very talented writer and director. He is still not one of the Zucker Brothers. Liam Neeson is one of the greatest actors of our time. That doesn’t change the fact that he is not Leslie Nielsen.

Right now, all I can say is that sometimes it is best to leave well enough alone.

What do you think, GNN Fans? Sound off in the comments below and let your voices be heard!

Thank You for reading! When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my four year old daughter Frances, and my loyal hound Marbles.  For more hot takes, follow me here and on our brand new YouTube channel.  You can also check out more of my content on my author’s page.

Stay Geeky Everybody

 

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