'90s Movie Month: "Hot Shots" Review

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Charlie Sheen stars as Lt. Topper Harley, an ace navy pilot brought out of retirement for a special mission- to take out Saddam Hussein's weapons manufacturing plants. However, Topper is mentally unbalanced and sure to snap under the pressure.
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'90s Movie Month: "Hot Shots!" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: July 31, 1991
Directed by: Jim Abrahams
Genre: Comedy, Action, War

Charlie Sheen ("Scary Movie 5") won multiple awards for his work on television, but "Hot Shots!" will remind viewers of just how funny he is on the big screen. Though originally released in 1991, the film manages to hold up well to the test of time, and viewers of all ages will find a few scenes that make them laugh.

Sheen plays Lt. Sean "Topper" Harley, a pilot with a troubled past. Though he quit the Navy after a traumatizing experience, he finds himself called back into action by Lt. Cmdr. James Block (Kevin Dunn, "Transformers"). Block secretly calls on the former Navy pilot for help because he hopes to make millions from a backdoor deal with an airplane company. While a short synopsis of the plot might make "Hot Shots!" sound like a drama, it's anything but serious.

When Topper gets back into action, he decides to go out of his way to forget about his past. He forms a bitter and hilarious rivalry with Lt. Kent Gregory (Cary Elwes, "The Princess Bride"), and he begins a relationship with Ramada (Valeria Golino, "Rain Man"). The only problem with their relationship is that Ramada is actually his therapist, and she isn't sure if their relationship actually helps him or pushes him further over the edge. Once the crew heads overseas to Iraq on a crucial mission, Topper must decide how to save the world and get the girl at the same time.

One of the main reasons that "Hot Shots!" remains so funny today is because of its great comedic cast. Sheen, who previously starred in films such as "Minor League" before jumping to film, is just as funny in the film as he is on recent television shows. He manages to make every step that Topper makes seem dramatic and funny at the same time. It helps that he gets a boost from Golino, who oozes sex appeal every time she steps on screen. Though Golino's character isn't quite as funny as some of the others, Sheen makes their scenes seem playful, lighthearted, and even a little racy sometimes.

Sheen also has a believable relationship with Elwes, which will remind some of "Top Gun." It's easy to see Elwes as the cool and collected Ice Man to Sheen's ragtag Maverick. The two play off each other, and their scenes might leave some wondering how many lines came from the script and how many were improvised.

Also along for the ride are Lloyd Bridges and Kristy Swanson. Bridges, known for roles in "High Noon" and other series films, shows off his lighter side, and viewers will remember how funny he was in past comedies such as "Airplane!" Swanson also has a long history of working in comedy with roles in "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but none of those films compare to her hilarious role in "Hot Shots."

Fans of "Two and a Half Men" will get a kick out of seeing Sheen butt heads with John Cryer, who played his brother on the show. When Sheen landed the lead role in that series, he suggested Cryer for the role of Alan, helping his old friend get back in the limelight. While the two only share a handful of scenes together, those moments are comedic gold. Viewers will also enjoy seeing Dunn play a bumbling bad guy. Known more recently for his work in 'Transformers" and its sequels, Dunn does a great job of playing the so-called villain of the film.

"Hot Shots!" was such a hit that many of the cast members returned for a sequel, but they're at their best in the first film. It pokes fun at everything from modern war films to classic war films of the 1940s, and some of the best scenes in the film come with lines that viewers can't stop quoting. One scene that almost everyone loves involves Ramada in bed as Topper proceeds to fry breakfast on her stomach, playfully insinuating that her body is hot enough for cooking. As great as some of those moments are, the film does have a few scenes that will leave viewers groaning, but it's easy to forget about those moments. For every misstep, the film bounces back with a line or a scene that leaves viewers rolling in the aisles.

"Hot Shots!" is one of the few comedies from the early 1990s that remains as funny today as it did when originally released. Sheen has great chemistry with almost every actor who crosses his path, and he manages to make viewers believe that those relationships are real. The actors and the hilarious moments in the film make "Hot Shots!" one of the best war film parodies of all time.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars