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"Loaded Weapon' an empty threat

Published Oct. 8, 2005

You don't need to watch National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon I to understand what a sloppy comedy concoction it is; just listen. What you won't hear is laughter, even in a crowded movie theater.

I haven't experienced such a silent audience for an alleged comedy since last year's horrid Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot.

A handful of collective chuckles and groans is the best this anemic rip-off of the Lethal Weapon trilogy and David Zucker/Jim Abrahams/David Zucker comedies can manage.

The joy of watching Zucker/Abraham/Zucker works such as Airplane, Top Secret, Hot Shots or the Naked Gun films is their shotgun-blast comedy style that makes viewers search every corner of the screen looking for jokes.

But even Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Joe Pesci spark more genuine humor in their Lethal Weapon roles. A satire is in deep trouble when it's not nearly as funny as its target.

Emilio Estevez plays the Gibson role of a burned-out, trigger-happy cop with the same lack of comic instincts he displayed in The Mighty Ducks.

Samuel L. Jackson, usually a fine character actor, looks uneasy in the Glover role. Even Jon Lovitz is wasted in an annoying caricature of Pesci's snitch who tags along with the cops. Bullets and bombs fly around them, but the danger that kills this trio is a silly, too-obvious script, co-written by director Gene Quintano and Don Holley.

The story concerns a megalomaniac (William Shatner, funnier on a decent episode of Rescue 911) who plans to sneak cocaine into Wilderness Girl scout cookies. This paper-thin scheme doesn't give viewers anything to ponder while the jokes fall flat.

Sexy, squeaky-voiced model Kathy Ireland adds a touch of Basic Instinct to the jumble, but she's a Sharon Stone's-throw away from being an engaging actress. If Loaded Weapon I is remembered for anything, it will be for cameo appearances by an array of stars in search of exposure. Still, the makers of this mess may enjoy the last laugh _ their film bumped Aladdin from the top spot at the box office this weekend, earning $9.5-million, ahead of much-hyped Sommersby ($8-million).

But that doesn't change the fact that this Loaded Weapon shoots nothing but blanks.