The Hot Shots! Movies Are Streaming On Disney+, And That Is Not An April Fools Joke

When Disney bought out Fox for $71.3 billion back in March of 2019, it caused, in addition to a renewed conversation as to the effectiveness of antitrust laws, a spate of cognitive dissonance among film fans. Disney has always been careful of its own branding, often gearing its massive entertainment factory toward the production of colorful, slick, family-friendly entertainments. With the acquisition of Fox, Disney would now own the likes of "Alien," "Die Hard," and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," films not well-designed for theme park attractions. This author likes to think that Dr. Frank-N-Furter is now part of the canon of Disney Princesses. Indeed, seeing the Disney logo in front of something as snarky and culturally dismantling as "The Simpsons" can shake one's brain chemistry. 

Odd, then, to discover that Jim Abrahams' 1991 spoof movie "Hot Shots!" and its 1993 follow-up "Hot Shots! Part Deux" are now available on Disney+. 

Following the success of David Zucker's "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" in 1989, spoof movies briefly became big business again. Zucker, Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker codified the genre with their films "Airplane!" and "Top Secret!" in 1980 and 1984, and continued the trend with a long series of very funny movies that were released among a small army of imitators. "The Naked Gun" spawned two sequels: "The Naked Gun 2 1⁄2: The Smell of Fear" in 1991, and "Naked Gun 33 1⁄3: The Final Insult" in 1994. Also in this wave were "Wrongfully Accused," "Spy Hard," "Plump Fiction," "National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1," Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," "Fatal Instinct," "Mafia!" and the impressively titled "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood." I also recommend the ignored Ezio Greggio masterpiece "The Silence of the Hams," which is unbelievably stupid and infectiously funny. None of those are on Disney+, though. But the "Hot Shots!" films are.

Hot Shots! Parts Un et Deux

"Hot Shots!" was one of the more notable releases in the spoof trend of the 1990s. A send-up of Tony Scott's clunky 1986 hit film "Top Gun," "Hot Shots!" followed the career of loner Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) as he pursued a career as a military pilot. Valeria Golino played his shrink who would eventually become his love interest; they would re-enact the sharing-food scene from "9 1⁄2 Weeks." Cary Elwes played Topper's rival, and Lloyd Bridges played the clueless military chief who revealed his body had been largely replaced due to war injuries (example line: "Read this to me. My eyes are ceramic."). There are bizarre running gags that involve sitting on dogs, Golino cooks an entire breakfast on her stomach, and the film ends with a tribute to "Dances with Wolves." If you were 13 years old in 1991, this was the funniest thing imaginable. 

"Hot Shots! Part Deux" sees the return of Sheen and Golino in a send-up of the "Rambo" films. There are references to countless films throughout, including a spoof of "Lady and the Tramp" wherein Sheen pushes a meatball across a plate with his nose, and a spoof of "Apocalypse Now," wherein Sheen sees his father Martin on a boat. "I loved you in 'Wall Street!'" they say in unison to each other. Both films feature Saddam Hussein (Jerry Haleva) as a villain, but while the first film merely bombed Hussein ("Hot Shots!" was released at the start of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, making the joke topical, and instantly dated), he is transformed into the main villain for the sequel. By the end of "Part Deux," Hussein will merge with his own pet dog, like the T-1000 in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

Spoof movies are designed to age poorly, as they typically tap into a lot of the pop iconography of the day; Reading old back issues of MAD Magazine will provide funny jokes, yes, but also a back-alley education as to the popular trends around the magazine's publication date. A lot of the jokes in the "Hot Shots!" movies may require a lot of explanation to a younger viewer. But a savvy teen who has seen "Top Gun" will likely be on the film's wavelength. So long as their attitude is also geared toward an attitude of general media deconstruction offered by a moribund genre.

The fall of spoof movies

The spoof movie trend had played itself out by the end of the 1990s, as audiences gradually tired of the genre; a lot of spoofy slapstick was simply outside of the realm of popular taste. 

The fall of the genre began in earnest with what was, ironically, its third wave of popularity. In 2000, Keenan Ivory Wayans made a spoof of "Scream" called "Scary Movie" that was immensely popular, and passingly funny, but seemed to be missing the "zip" of the ultra-joke-dense heyday of the genre. "Scary Movie" spawned four sequels, and two of its writers, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, went on to create a long series of successful and aggressively awful spoofs: "Epic Movie," "Superhero Movie," "Date Movie," "Vampires Suck," and "Meet the Spartans" are theirs. 

These films, made for about $20 million apiece, each grossed over $80 million worldwide, leaving the world no choice but to produce more and more. Often Friedberg and Seltzer would base jokes on previews for upcoming films, write in references, produce the films in a hurry, and have spoofs playing in theaters alongside the films they were spoofing. Beyond a shock of recognition, however, Friedberg and Seltzer weren't making a comment or doing a sendup. They merely compiled references. The spoof genre began to wither, and eventually, the third wave also died out: The 2015 film "Superfast!" was a bomb. 

Now, thanks to Disney+, some of the better films of the previous wave are available for rediscovery. Now it's your job, dear reader, to push past the thicket of the animated Disney canon, push aside all that "Star Wars" nonsense, and find a film that features John Cryer describing a big glob of his own snot on a radar screen.