Courtesy Photo
85 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, August 21, 1998
Directed by Pat Proft

Starring Leslie Nielsen, Richard Crenna, Kelly LeBrock, Melinda McGraw, Sandra Bernhard & Michael York

This film is on the Worst of 1998 list.

Proving the genre has lost something, 'Accused' is even worse than "Mafia!" and "BASEketball"

"Wrongfully Accused" is the epitaph of the modern spoof. Coming in the wake of the sadly unfunny "Mafia!" and "BASEketball," it's not only worse than those two bombs -- it proves, in concert with them, that the genre badly needs new blood.

Largely poking fun at "The Fugitive," what passes for plot in this movie concerns a concert violinist (Leslie Nielsen) framed and convicted of murder, who escapes from a prison bus wreck (the bus slips on a banana peel in the road) and tries to find the real killer -- a one-armed, one-legged, one-eyed man.

But "Accused" is such a mess that it only occasionally visits anything resembling storyline and instead busies itself with a parade of flat, unconnected slapstick bits almost completely devoid of comedy.

The three or four adequate laughs come from a cameo by John Walsh, the guy from "America's Most Wanted," and scenes aped from "The Usual Suspects," "Baywatch," "Mission: Impossible" and those gawd awful Mentos candy TV spots.

The rest of alleged comedy bits are dead on arrival, including randomly placed, completely failed knocks on "North by Northwest," "Field of Dreams," "The Seven Year Itch," "Braveheart," and, clearly as an afterthought, "Titanic."

Nielsen looks positively bored in this movie, playing a dullard variation on Frank Drebin (from "The Naked Gun") for the umpteenth time. Embarrassed co-stars include Richard Crenna as the federal marshal on Nielsen's trail, Kelly LeBrock and Melinda McGraw as stock sexpots, and Michael York and Sandra Bernhard.

Directed by Pat Proft (one of the "Naked Gun" and "Hot Shots" writers who recently nose-dived with "Mr. Magoo"), this picture is so sloppy in its execution that it often spends five minutes jockeying to position itself for a 20-second bit that isn't funny in the first place. It's so inconsistent that actors costumes change almost randomly throughout the picture. It's so cheap that when one shot is ruined by a special effect gone wrong (an alleged freight train is clearly just a facade on a flatbed truck), Proft didn't even bother to re-shoot it.

And when Proft knows he has a dull patch, the dialogue turns to nonsense, as if he's throwing a bunch of silly words at the audience, hoping something, anything, will garner a giggle.

When seasoned spoofsters like Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Proft -- who all got their breaks on "Airplane!," one of the genre's most holy touchstones -- start churning out crap like "Mafia!," "BASEketball" and "Wrongfully Accused," it's nothing short of the end of an era.

At this point I'm willing to bet there won't be another decent spoof until a new class of Zuckers or Mel Brookses emerges, and that could take years.

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