Looking at Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker -- We evaluate the movies from the directing triumvirate

Looking at Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker

Remember hacking around in the rec room and thinking up dumb skits with your buddies? Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker — the only directing triumvirate in modern Hollywood history — figured out a way to do this for a living. The partners have since splintered into separate threats, and the Zucker brothers have had hits with Ghost and The Naked Gun. Now, with the success of Hot Shots!, Abrahams’ turn has come. The scorecard so far:


The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
Directed by John Landis and written by and starring three straight-faced wisenheimers, Kentucky offers one rude sketch after another. B

Airplane! (1980)
The essential ZAZ recipe: Take a pound of genre clichés, a gaggle of TV has-beens, sprinkle liberally with bad puns, slapstick, and baby-boomer in-jokes. Puree in a blender. Overbake. Serves: everybody. A+

Police Squad
Before The Naked Gun, Lieut. Frank Drebin ran amok in six original TV adventures that sank like stones. They’re available on video, though, and CBS is rerunning them this summer. Don’t make the same mistake twice. B+

Top Secret! (1984)
A mutant whelp of Elvis movies and The Dirty Dozen, starring Val Kilmer. Underrated and awfully funny. B

Ruthless People (1986)
Dale Launer’s script allowed ZAZ the chance to actually develop a few characters. And what characters: Bette Midler as a kidnap victim nobody wants back, Danny De Vito as her venal husband, and Bill Pullman as the stupidest person alive. A

David Zucker

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Your TV series was a complete flop, so what do you do? Simple: talk somebody into giving you more money to make it into a hit movie. Now, that’s chutzpah. A-

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (1991)
It’s even broader than the first Gun, and a few too many gags have been recycled from Police Squad! None of it matters. In a summer of moping Robin Hoods and rampaging robots, Fear is a welcome blast of silliness. B+

Jerry Zucker

Ghost (1990)
This potent box office winner marked the first ZAZ foray into drama. It’s slick and sappy, but it has earned its place in the pop culture Hall of Fame. If you need proof, check out the pottery-lust scene parody in The Naked Gun 2 1/2, in which David Zucker directorially gives a noogie to his kid brother. C+

Jim Abrahams

Big Business (1988)
A lumpy Bette-Midler-and-Lily-Tomlin-play-twins farce, Big Business remains the only real misfire of all ZAZ projects. High in concept, low in octane, it’s just another gaseous Hollywood contrivance. D+

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)
Despite Winona Ryder having to play a character named ”Dinky,” this human comedy about a town that goes nuts when a prodigal daughter returns didn’t deserve box office oblivion. A flaky, occasionally affecting film, Roxy plays better on video. B-