I've just seen Naked Gun 33 1/3 and a preview of Beverly Hills Cop III and I have to say that as parodies go, Cop III is the funnier - if you can drag your eyes away from your watch to look at the screen. Not that John Landis planned to direct a satire. He simply can't help himself: how many times can an audience sit through yet another car chase or listen to yet another exchange about Eddie Murphy being a maverick who gets results without wanting to giggle. . . or groan? We've heard exactly the same things about Clint, Sly, Bruce and Arnie - we could chant the dialogue along with the actors. Cop III even murders Murphy's boss so Eddie can hit the revenge trail, which is neither motivation or rank cliche - it's spoof. Spoof automatically occurs when there's no conviction left in a formula.

Is this why Naked Gun isn't particularly amusing? It's as if the series knew it was running out of things to caricature. How can Leslie Neilsen compete with Don Johnson in Guilty as Sin, an already absurd recycling of Jagged Edge, or with Madonna in Body of Evidence, a barmy Basic Instinct rip-off, or with Sharon Stone in the preposterous Sliver, which mates both Edge and Instinct? Indeed, in these post-modernist times, when the big-action flicks increasingly resemble animation (Demolition Man), and animation features characters infinitely more human than many current stars (check out Aladdin), you have to question the very notion of parody. Can it endure when all of Western pop culture is merging, flattening out and turning into one continuous cartoon?

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