The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"DRAGNET"

Dragnet

Dragnet, released in 1987, put a comedic spin on the old Jack Webb TV cop show. Although it was humorous, the movie still maintained respect for the program on which it was based. Taking such an approach was a relatively novel idea at that time, so it stood out among the crowd. Shout! Factory now brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time as part of their Shout Select series. It looks and sounds great, and there are some worthy bonus features included.

Dan Aykroyd plays Joe Friday -- an inspired choice, as he's always been good at playing characters who talk fast and have distinct mannerisms, as Webb did on the series. Tom Hanks is his new partner, Pep Streebek. They work together to solve a series of thefts. The trail leads them first to a lisping pornographer (Dabney Coleman), then a reverend (Christopher Plummer), then a cult called P.A.G.A.N. (which stands for People Against Goodness And Normalcy). Alexandra Paul plays "the virgin Connie Swail," a victim of the cult who becomes Friday's love interest.

Dragnet works on two levels. On one, it's a loving tribute to the source material. Aykroyd exaggerates Webb's style -- which was already intentionally over-the-top -- while still making Friday a likable character. It would have been easy to turn him into the butt of the joke, yet Aykroyd never does. His fondness for the character's quirks is palpable. Director Tom Mankiewicz occasionally mimics the show's rapid-fire, back-and-forth style of conversations. Webb was fond of an editorial style in which one character said a line in close-up, then the other person would do the same. The movie has fun recreating this.

On another level, Dragnet works simply because it's funny, irrespective of its origins. Hanks makes a hilarious foil to Aykroyd's "just the facts" seriousness, Dabney Coleman is brilliant as the sleazy porn king, and there are plenty of cleverly-conceived scenes and sharp lines of dialogue. The third act is perhaps a little less funny because the plot has to take itself seriously enough to achieve resolution. Even so, Dragnet holds up well. This remains one of the funnier '80s comedies.

The Shout Select Collector's Edition Blu-ray features an audio commentary from pop culture historian Russell Dyball, as well as a 25-minute interview with Alexandra Paul. She reveals that, having never seen Dragnet growing up, she didn't get the screenplay's humor and intended to pass, until her agent persuaded her to follow through with the audition anyway. The actress is very lively and excited to talk about working with her co-stars.

The original theatrical trailer and some TV spots are also included. The real treasure, though, is "Just the Facts!" -- a 45-minute TV special hosted by Aykroyd and Hanks. It provides a fairly extensive history of the show's creation, then gives viewers a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the motion picture. This is a real rarity, so its inclusion here is extremely noteworthy.

Unfortunately, rights issues prevented Shout! Factory from including the "City of Crime" music video created to help promote the movie. That omission aside, the supplementary material and crystal clear picture/sound make the Dragnet Blu-ray a worthy addition to any fan's collection.


Dragnet is rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.


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