Picks and Pans Review: Dragnet
Somebody ought to book this overwrought flick on a 12-95: a 12-minute skit impersonating a 95-minute motion picture. Dan Aykroyd is funny sending up Jack Webb's Joe Friday character from the TV cop series of the '50s and '60s. He plays Friday's nephew, a priggish pedant who is disgusted that a skin-magazine tycoon would build a mansion "right smack dab in the middle of the same city where they recorded We Are the World." But the parody would have been a lot more appealing as a TV bit. The film's writers, first-time director Tom Mankiewicz, Aykroyd and Alan Zweibel, get desperate for jokes and end up with something perilously close to a straightforward police story. Tom Hanks, as Aykroyd's free-spirited partner, is appealing, but only because Hanks is always appealing; the character is mostly a straight man whose loose moral code sets Aykroyd up to explain how people are different from animals: "We use cutlery and we control our sexual impulses." The cast includes Christopher Plummer as a sanctimonious TV preacher who runs a satanic cult, Elizabeth Ashley as a police commissioner, and as the skin magazine publisher, a pointlessly lisping Dabney Coleman. Winsome Alexandra (8 Million Ways to Die) Paul does a nice turn as the picture of innocence Aykroyd rescues from a cult sacrifice. Probably the best touch is having Harry (TV's M*A*S*H) Morgan play Aykroyd's and Hanks's boss, Bill Gannon, the character Morgan played in Dragnet's TV run. (Two veteran actors who appeared on the series, Kathleen Freeman and Peter Leeds, also have small parts here.) Everybody spends a lot of time in various vehicles. What they're engaged in is a search for laughs, and it's largely futile. (PG-13)
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