In a World full of serious action movies, filled with huge explosions, improbably hot women, and angsty, tortured heroes with tragic backgrounds, one man stood up against the status quo and said, "No more! We don't have to sit here and endure the same plot over and over again! We deserve something more! Something better!" And he took the same plot we'd seen over and over again, and made us see it yet again, only this time, it was different... it was funny. It was... Hot Shots! (1991)That man... was Jim Abrahams. And he is insane.As one-third of the team that forever spoiled the airline disaster movie, Abrahams takes the fighter pilot action movie and turns it into something a couple degrees off center, just enough to catch us off-guard. At first blush, it appears to be a serious action movie, but then the whole thing spirals off into chaos.Charlie Sheen stars as Topper Harley, an ex-Navyman who left the armed services to live with the Native Americans after the tragic death of his father. He is called back into service to help save a mission that is being sabotaged by a greedy weapons manufacturer. In the meantime, he must locate Saddam Hussein's cache of nukes and (more importantly) win the heart of his therapist Ramada Thompson (Valeria Golino) away from a rival pilot.Hot Shots! was followed by a sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux, in 1993, which did for Rambo what the original did for Top Gun. This time the story is a near perfect recreation of Rambo III, where Topper has resigned himself to an Asian monk village. His commanding officer Colonel Walters arrives to recruit him for a rescue mission, which he refuses. When Walters is captured on the following rescue attempt, Topper agrees to go in and rescue everyone.
The original movie contains examples of:
Accidental Misnaming: Admiral Tug Benson can never seem to remember Lt. Cmr. James Block's first name. Or last name. Or rank. Frequently, he calls him by three or four completely random names in the same conversation.
Anachronism Stew: Played for Laughs. Admiral Benson has apparently fought in every major battle of the past century or two, including being wounded by a bazooka at Little Big Horn... or was it Okinawa?
All the Iraqi fighter pilots names and dialogue is just the names of Middle Eastern dishes.
The dialogue between Topper and his Native American friend is a bunch of gibberish (Minnesota towns and cities with Indian names, and the names of Jackson siblings) with some occasional English parsed in.
Bar Brawl: Again, parodied. As soon as Topper and Kent start shoving each other the entire bar spontaneously breaks out in violence that ends the moment Ramada stops the two rivals.
Cool Plane: Parodied with the Oscar EW 5894, the "backbone of our proud American arsenal," portrayed in the film by the Folland Gnat jet-trainer, a plane that couldn't even break the sound barrier in real life.
Credits Gag: The recipe for the "topping for brownies."
Epiphany Therapy: Played mostly straight. Topper suffers panic attacks every time he is compared to his disgraced father who was also a pilot. At the end of the movie in the middle of one of these attacks he's told the truth, that his father was a hero. Suddenly Topper is ready to fly circles around the enemy.
Fisheye Lens: Washout is afflicted with "Walleye Vision" that makes the world appear this way. He's a pilot. Later on he gets corrective glasses... which are tiny aquariums with live fish in them, making them a literal example of this trope.
Only when he starts crying towards the end of the movie. At first they're just very thick glasses.
Made of Iron: Admiral Benson. Most of his body parts have been replaced with prosthetics or transplants due to war wounds or general accidents. He survives falling into a fire in the sequel thanks to having asbestos for skin.
Nom de Guerre: All the pilots, as befitting a (parody of a) military action movie.
Non Sequitur Thud: After Pfaffenbach slams head first into an ambulance door, he has this to say when he is congratulated for showing up:
Jim "Wash Out" Pfaffenbach: "Thank you, Andre. I'll have the veal piccata." Splat.
In Part Deux, after Topper is almost blown up and is pulled out of the ground by his teammates:
Topper: That's right Cindy, it's 23 past the hour and now here's the Buckinghams with "Kind of a Drag". *THUD*
One Degree of Separation: Parodied. When Kent reveals that his father died with Topper's in a crash, it sets off a series of revelations interconnecting everyone in the barracks.
One of the Boys: For a fun game, try to figure out if Kowalski is treated as if she was a man at every turn because somehow everyone thinks she is one or because there's some mad gender equality policy at work in the service.
Overt Rendezvous: Lampshaded; a conspirator mentions that he finds public places to be the best place to have secret meetings. While they're at a boxing match.
Spicy Latina: Ramada. Not Spanish (the actress playing her was half-Italian and half-Greek), but damn close.
Tempting Fate: Mocked with Dead Meat, who meets his beautiful wife on the tarmac, carries the critical evidence about JFK in his pocket, came up with a solution for global warming, and tries to sign a life insurance policy before climbing in the cockpit... but his pen is out of ink. Oh, well, there'll be plenty of time for that later. His last words are, "I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?" Hard cut to his funeral...
Benson: By the way. I want to thank you for having us over for dinner the other night. Cheryl and I thought the stroganoff was marvelous. Sid: Sir, we didn't have dinner the other night. Benson: Really? Then where the hell was I? And who's this Cheryl?
Throwing the Fight: Extreme example during the boxing match in the film; one punch is thrown, it misses by a mile, and both fighters drop immediately after. As setup for the joke, Wilson says "This should be a good match. Both men work for Don King".
Aside Glance: After Ramada tells Topper how she envisions their potential relationship.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In just as full force in the sequel; at one point a startled guard yells out "I'll have a hamburger!" in a thick accent. Later on, a group of not-Iraqis sounds like they're yelling in a foreign language; in fact, they're actually arguing with one another in English over who is following who, but speaking it really fast and with their voices overlapping so it sounds like a different language.
Billing Displacement: Rowan Atkinson is billed pretty high in the credits despite maybe just 3 minutes total of screentime during the last 10 minutes of the film! Other actors such as Ryan Stiles, are billed very low, despite much more screentime throughout the film. Ouch.
Lampshaded later on in the form of the various ridiculous weapons used to silently take down the guards, including a literal Rocket Punch launcher, a mallet on the end of a sniper rifle, and two extended fingers mounted on a rifle's bayonet lug.
Topper misses every single shot with his bow during an attempt to take down a random Mook, only to then hit him with a chicken. And he also "kills" some guys by merely throwing bullets at them with his hand.
Used as well as hilariously subverted. Running up an insane body count far beyond the ammo he should have on him, Topper runs out only to see a group of bad guys gather behind him. Seeing a stockpile of loose bullets, he throws a handful at them with equal effectiveness.
While on board a patrol boat, when Topper fires so much ammo that he's buried up to his waist in shell casings and the boat starts sinking from the weight.
California Doubling: Spoofed, by putting a forest, a swamp, and a random family's back yard in Iraq.
The Cameo: Bob Vila appears as the man installing insulation in Topper's hut.
Cardboard Prison: One of the prisoners slips completely through the bars to grab the keys to unlock his door.
Casting Gag: Setting Colonel Walters as the analogue to Colonel Trautman from the Rambo movies is helped by being played by the same actor
Clothing Damage: Ramada rips part of her shirt off to make a bandage for one of the male soldiers, so several other soldiers also start faking nonexistent cuts and injuries to get her to rip more of her shirt off.
Groin Attack: Everyone cringes in pain... and walnuts come out of the guys mouth!
Handwraps of Awesome: Topper Harley wears these in his Dim Sum match early in the movie. Covered in caramel, sprinkles and gummy bears.
Helium Speech: Occurs after the president takes helium instead of oxygen to go diving.
History Marches On: The movie was released in 1993, and its context to modern culture has been amazingly consistent since. Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003 and was executed in 2006. Films with political figures as the central villain (even parodies) tend to age very fast, but this movie managed to have current references for 20 YEARS!
Saddam is shown watching The Arsenio Hall Show, which went off the air in 1994 and Arsenio got a second talk show in 2013, making the reference current once more.
The ending joust scene is from the original American Gladiators. That show went off the air in 1996 and its second incarnation aired in 2008, making THAT scene relevant again!
Also, early in the film a Subway restaurant can be seen in Iraq. This would have been out of place in 1993 when the restaurant had very few branches outside America... but now the franchise has expanded so much that there actually ARE Subway stores in Iraq.
I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Averted, amazingly enough. Pay close attention to the way everyone handles weapons; nearly everyone is holding their weapons correctly and following the safety rules for handling firearms.
Unless there's a hilarious gag to be made by using a weapon incorrectly.
Improvised Weapon: Topper extends the antenna of a handphone to fence with Saddam. Walters later uses a fly swatter to knock out a guard, having quickly selected it from a pile of weapons including a several handguns, knives, and grenades.
After running out of ammo because the guard kept moving (picking up coins, etc) Topper resorts to shooting him with a chicken.
Insurmountable Waist High Fence: Multiple examples; the commando team is stymied by a wooden fence whose lock (which is a simple latch they could easily reach over) they can't blow, because "It's not our property." Earlier, Topper has to use a grappling hook and several seconds of difficult climbing to get over a knee height stone fence; even more hilarious, not five feet away is a path leading around the fence.
One of the POW's is imprisoned with twist ties, and later the chinese finger trap. Another prisoner can't run because they've tied his shoelaces together.
Topper: [in shock] Those bastards...
I Warned You: In the Offscreen Break Upflashback, a train attendant cries out "BOARD! BOARD!", with a newspaper reader ignoring him and shaking his head. A few seconds later, a carpenter walks back and smacks the guy with a 2x4. The attendant's response? "Warned ya. Warned ya twice."
Just Following Orders: The reason why Ramada never told Topper the truth is because she was ordered not to tell anyone about the mission. It still didn't make Topper feel any better.
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Energizer Bunny appears in one scene, only it's blue and not quite a rabbit. Still recognizable, and the voiceover is there. After a stunned moment, both sides in the ongoing battle combine fire to blow it up before going back to shooting at each other.
The Load: This is parodied with Rowan Atkinson playing a hostage who can't walk — because his shoelaces are tied together. He insists that he be carried by Charlie Sheen (the hero), and berates him for jiggling too much — while being shot at! Atkinson's character goes firmly in The Scrappy territory, though, as he taunts the attackers (including shouting "You missed!" when they hit Topper, not him, in the arm), and insisting on getting a drink from a nearby drinking fountain.
Martial Arts Headband: Topper dons one early in the movie. Over his eyes. He promptly runs face first into a pole.
Missing Trailer Scene: The trailer, a parody of the teaser for Rambo: First Blood Part II, contains special shoot footage of Charlie Sheen suiting up as the film's Rambo parody. Also, an alternate version of the first scene in the White House is included.
More Dakka: Topper is up to his waist in spent shells by the time he's done shooting.
President Tug Benson: "My skin's made of asbestos. Tanning parlor accident at Dien Bien Phu."
Paper-Thin Disguise: In the sequel, the main characters are masquerading as fisherman. Horribly. The enemy mook watching them sees nothing wrong until a cross-dressing Ramada goes into the women's restroom on the boat.
Porky Pig Pronunciation: Or writing in this case: "On October 15, the President of the United States ordered a covert mission in the Persian Gulf for the purpose of rescuing soldiers taken hostage during Desert Storm. Only a handful of our highest government officials were aware of the operation, as it included an attempt to assasssan (backspace backspace backspace) assisss (backspace backspace) kill a guy."
Pocket Protector: A locket saves Ramada from a bullet; upon examination, it still has the unmarred large-caliber cartridge lodged in it.
Topper:Out of all the jungles in all the world, you had to walk into mine. Ramada:I didn't want to, Topper, but I had to come, it was the sequel. Topper:Do you have any idea what the critics will say? The same warmed over characters? Ramada:Oh, Topper. You're just using this whole casting thing as an excuse to hide what's really hurting you.
Ramada's Action Girl upgrade is done shamelessly to fit her into the second movie. In the first movie, she is only a psychiatrist (well that and the lounge singing, welding, trick horseback riding, and performing gymnastics), here she knows kickboxing. Of course, Topper goes from being a pilot to a commando, so this is about being funny instead of consistent.
Serious Business: Bungie jumping is the entire reason behind why the mole betrays the team.
Sexy Shirt Switch: Gender reversed. Yes, you heard us correctly. A rather buff Topper Harley, in his lover's (rather lacy) gown, brushing his (long and silky) hair in front of a vanity mirror and smoking a Victoria Slim in a cigarette holder. It's all very masculine.
Stupid Surrender: Played for Laughs. Topper is carrying a hostage, has a giant machine gun and knows how to use it. When Saddam shows up with a tiny hand gun, Topper surrenders immediately despite having blown away tons of guys earlier, and even surviving a shot from a Mook just a few scenes earlier while carrying said hostage.
Talking Is a Free Action: Ish. Topper is sword-fighting Saddam with a phone with its antenna extended. Saddam is carrying a broadsword, for reference. Then the phone rings.
Topper: (holds out a hand) (answers the phone as Saddam waits obligingly) Butcher of Baghdad, hello? beat Uh-huh. beat Oh, hello!
Saddam: Who is it? Who is it?
Topper: It's your wife, Hillary Rodham Hussein.
Saddam: Oh Jesus Mary and Joseph, I'm so stupid! I was supposed to pick her up at the gym. No no no, I'm out of town, on business, bombing, gassing, a last minute execution. Tell her something, make it up!
Topper: (to Saddam's wife) I'm sorry, you just missed him.
Saddam: Ah. I owe you one. (lunges with the sword)
Typecasting: Fun fact: If you've ever seen an actor portray Saddam Hussein, its probably this guy. He pretty much did them all.
Visual Pun: A not-Iraqi interrogator with a Holiday Inn towel wrapped around his head. When Harley says he smells a rat, guess what crawls over his shoulder? The film, like the others from these creators, is full of these.
War Is Hell: But after a tearful talk with Harley they think the opposite.
Widely-Spaced Jail Bars: In Hot Shots Part Deux, Colonel Walters is imprisoned inside a cage. He slips through the bars, grabs a set of keys, and slips back inside the cage. He then unlocks the door and leaves normally.
With Catlike Tread: Parodied in the key scene. A series of loud noises is not enough to wake the guard...but a sneeze by a mouse is.
Topper Harley: You're the only one that knows how to get to the copter pad. If I'm not there in 15 minutes, you know what to do. Colonel Walters: Yeah, we get the hell out of here! Topper Harley: No! Wait another 15 minutes!
You Look Familiar: Same actors with new roles. Most notably, Ryan Stiles, who played the pilot "Mailman" in the first movie, is the explosives expert Rabinowitz in this movie.