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Dragnet

Reviewed By Jack Sommersby
Posted 10/23/20 15:43:53

"Side-Splitting Entertainment"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Thankfully devoid of the kind of cheap lowbrow humor on sad display today.

Having never watched an episode of the TV cop-comedy show Dragnet, which ran from 1967 to 1970, I can't comment on how this big-screen version measures up to it, but I can say without doubt the movie is oftentimes explosively funny and manages to fitfully entertain from start to finish without an unapologetic bone in its simply-out-to-please body. Dan Aykroyd throws himself into the role of Los Angeles robbery/homicide Sergeant Joe Friday, who's such a martinet and priggish stickler for the rules he can effortlessly cite specific penal codes to an absolute tee without a moment's hesitation - he's so quintessentially by-the-book he's barely human, more like an automaton in drab off-the-rack suits and a flat-top haircut. (His chief weaknesses, he concedes, are unfiltered Chesterfield cigarettes and the occasional artery-clogging chili dog.) Perfectly complimenting him is Tom Hanks's brazen Detective Pep Streebek, just transferred over from Narcotics and becomes Friday's uncouth partner, and the contrast between the two is amusing - Pep with his tardiness, slick clothes and womanizing ways, and Joe the ultimate killjoy always fussing over his partner's unfettered disregard for dress code and proper procedure. They're quite the pair, with the two stars feeding off each other beautifully: they get such a pleasing rhythm going that I'd have been fine with the entire running time with them endlessly bickering in that unmarked police car. What there is of the meager plot involves a series of bizarre criminal acts perpetrated by a cabal of religious pagans plaguing the City of Angels, but this is mostly incidental because we could care less about it and hunger for more of that priceless Aykroyd/Hanks interplay. (The stupid crime story, involving a dastardly televangelist who wants to take over L.A. with all-encompassing sin, can just take a hike.) Among the supporting cast the always-welcome Dabney Coleman does a priceless turn as a lisping Beverly Hills porn-magazine kingpin contemptuous of the financial lower-echelon of society - when Friday maintains his meager salary is clean, Coleman's Jerry Caesar tells him to go home and "polith your pennith." Overall, Dragnet is too discombobulated to qualify as any kind of classic, but there are numerous crackerjack one-liners you'll be quoting for days, and it niftily wraps things up with one of the best concluding visual gags you'll witness in ages.

Fans will be very pleased with the Blu-Ray release from the good folks at Shout Factory.

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