Starring: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Christopher Villiers
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Running Time: 90 mins
Top Secret! is an American film about a rock and roll star who is sent to East Germany to become part of the local resistance and rescue a scientist from enemy hands.
Made by the same team that brought you Airplane! (perhaps the funniest movie ever made), it’s fair to say that Top Secret! doesn’t quite cut the same mustard. It’s got some good laughs here and there, and it’s zany enough throughout to put a smile on your face, but it’s not a particularly quick-witted or deliriously chaotic comedy.
On the one hand, Top Secret! is light-hearted and fun-loving enough to entertain on a simpler level, with good comedic energy, enjoyable performances and a couple of stand-out jokes throughout.
It’s not a non-stop laughter-fest, often getting a little too bogged down in its story, but when the film hits the right beats with a clever gag, a well-written line or just a good bit of slapstick, it’s huge fun to watch.
In the lead roles, Val Kilmer and Lucy Gutteridge have enjoyably odd chemistry, but are by the film’s most dynamic on-screen presences, bringing a good energy to the table that the screenplay sometimes misses out on.
And that’s where I was most disappointed with Top Secret!. Again, drawing comparisons with Airplane! means it’s always going to come up short, but the film struggles to really find its feet with a non-stop, chaotic energy, sitting as a more mellow parody than an all-out, crazed comedy.
For one, the parody element of the story isn’t all that funny. The film tries to strike up a weird combination in the form of a rock-n-roll movie crashing into the World War 2 spy genre, but it feels more awkward than it ever does particularly hilarious.
Genre parodies were all the rage at the time, but this film doesn’t do much to really poke fun at the essence of the genres it’s mocking, meaning that it really pales in comparison to other parodies like Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs.
What’s more is that the screenplay here is a meandering and frustratingly random series of events. Airplane!, for all its ridiculousness, has a very simple and even exciting story, yet Top Secret! seems to wander about like it’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with little direction to really keep you engrossed.
All in all, Top Secret! really is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s a light-hearted and fun-loving movie with some good laughs and an enjoyable atmosphere, but it’s far from the brilliantly witty level of Airplane! or other parodies of the age, proving a frustrating and often disappointing watch. So, that’s why I’m giving the film a 7.0 overall.