The latest National Lampoon escapade happily surprises by not being one of those comedies whose every amusing joke has been exhausted in the splicing together of the 30-second trailer.
There may not be a laugh every minute, but there are enough to satisfy most devotees of the relentlessly silly, tasteless school of parody. Hand-in-hand with director Gene Quintano's apeing of the loud, violent, trashy-but-entertaining action cartoon, Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson impersonate the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover partnership of the Lethal Weapon trilogy, with Estevez particularly good as Jack Colt, wild, crazy and nursing a "tragic" loss, and Jackson's Wes Luger the by-the-book family man about to retire.
Where the similar, disappointing Hot Shots! ran short of Top Gun material worth sending up, Loaded Weapon not only has the bounty provided by the three Lethal Weapons to plunder (from the psychotic "Nam veteran villain to the toilet wheeze to the comparison of scars as foreplay) but also the familiarity with a vast body of cop thriller cliches to play on.
Thus in addition to the many direct, recognisable Lethal lifts we get reasonably daft generic set piece routines such as The Convenience Store Hold-Up and The Informant Shoot Out At The Sleazy Hotel, as well as specific leg pulls of Dirty Harry, The Silence Of The Lambs and the Basic Instinct interrogation scene.
The pace is not as furious as required to rival Airplane or Naked Gun in the aching ribs stakes, but there are a few hilarious sight gags and several good-natured appearances from William Shatner, Tim Curry and F. Murray Abraham (plus very useful unbilled cameos from two big stars) to keep the laughs moving along.