I have a particular soft spot for the parody genre of the 70s and 80s. Films like Airplane! and Spaceballs were huge parts of my childhood, shaping much of my humor going forward. One parody that somehow alluded my knowledge until recently was 1984’s Top Secret, a spy spoof predating the Austin Powers film series that pokes fun musicals, war and the aforementioned act of espionage. The film follows American rockstar Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer in his film debut) who travels to Germany and becomes entangled in a kidnapping plot that threatens the good nature of the world.
Opening with a hilarious beach bop singing about surfing and shooting guns (at the same time), the film quickly delves into director trio Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker’s bread and butter; visual gags, absurdist characters and over-the-top slapstick. Kilmer shines as the oblivious but musically talented rockstar, flexing his dance moves and singing ability. The supporting cast are equally hilarious, especially the ragtag resistance team Rivers teams up with to save his new girl. The sets and props may look fairly cheap, but that’s all part of the charm as the film never takes itself too seriously and knows exactly what its trying to be.
If you’re a fan of these style of parody films, you’ll find a lot to love here. Rarely making sense but still somehow following a simple plot, the real selling point is the jokes. Whether it be a train station on wheels or an aggressively groovy song about straightening rugs, the gags are rapid fire and mostly hilarious. The climax is packed with some of the funniest and most absurd slapstick around, coming close to rivaling my all-time favorite comedy, Airplane!. As to be expected, not every joke lands and the story itself isn’t strong enough to make up for the few blunders. Nevertheless, the film is still a hell of a good time for fans of the genre and style, reiterating once again that they really don’t make em’ like they used to.