x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Absurd comedy film

Leslie Nielsen's death reminds us of his flair of the absurd.

As a chap, choosing one's "favourite film ever" is minefield territory, something to be considered very carefully for when the inevitable question arises to break the silence of a boring dinner party. Generally speaking, we're expected to pick one of a few select titles, including Goodfellas, Scarface, The Godfather I and II (but not three) and, if you're feeling particularly intellectual, Citizen Kane.

Basically, serious films with serious leading men sporting serious suits (except Scarface), haircuts and attitudes, no doubt reflecting our own sophisticated, cigar-chomping personas.

For much of my life, my favourite film was either Naked Gun or Naked Gun 2 , depending on the week, in which a silver-topped, rubber-faced 60-something (played by the late great Leslie Nielsen, who died this week at the age of 84) fights crime in as ludicrous a manner as possible, attempts to wipe the birthmark from the forehead of Mikhail Gorbachev and warns baddies that if they so much as sneeze and he'll be there to wipe their noses.

My "top 10" (for really dreary dinners) would have revealed a worrying appreciation for the supremely silly, with both Hot Shots and Airplane, plus a few of Peter Jackson's pre-Baggins splatterfests jostling for position along with Monty Python.

Unfortunately, such films aren't deemed particularly "grown-up" and, as I got older, the same self-awareness that forces people to not wear double denim made me reassess. I ditched the daftness, turning to more "manly" titles such as Die Hard 2, The Usual Suspects and, more recently, The Departed - all undeniably great, but not really tickling my slapstick bone (which sits just left of the funny). My favourite actor moved from the deadpan king Nielsen to the more sneering Alan Rickman (and not just because we have similar names). In other words, I wasn't true to myself.

But now, older, wiser and feeling comfortable in my own shoes (slippers, actually), coupled with the departure of Nielsen, a man who apparently never went anywhere without his whoopee cushion, I'm going back to my first answer. Come back absurdity, all is forgiven.

Unfortunately, it appears that in the time I've been away, the slapstick and spoof industries have been suffering somewhat. While comic book adaptations and identikit Jennifer Aniston-fronted rom-coms are spawned every other week, fans of lunacy are expected to endure either Will Ferrell's comedic desperations or the seemingly unstoppable and unwatchable Scary Movie franchise. These are sad times for silliness.

So I ask, are there others out there also yearning for a new farce in the same style as Naked Gun? Surely we haven't become so serious that we can't now enjoy a healthy dose of the ridiculous. Let's hope not. But in the meantime, don't call me Shirley.