Dragnet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks are the LA police detectives out looking for the facts in this parody update of the old Jack Webb TV series. The old, authoritarian Dragnet was as claustrophobically reined in as this one is comically hung out, though first-time director Tom Mankiewicz (son of All About Eve's Joseph L.) still manages a tight (and often hilarious) simulation of 50s TV classicism with his stripped and boxy neo-noirish styling (studied, up-angle shooting and sculpted Sirkian lighting, a visual field so shallow that every rack focus is a screaming self-announcement) and resourceful use of deco iconography (e.g., LA city hall and Griffith Park observatory, both gleaming period reminders). As the worshipful kin of his 50s namesake, Aykrovd's Joe Friday affects his uncle's clipped inflections and punctuated manner, but his plump, teddy-bear features tell you he's only an 80s pretender, a speed bump impersonating a roadblock on permissiveness's downward spiral (uncle would never approve: what's authoritarianism without anorectic denial?). The film slips occasionally into 80s action-itis (superfluous car chases and gunnery) and can't resist a few conventional friendship lessons (Hanks finally gets his uptight partner to stop calling him "Buster"), but most of the time it's fresh, funny, and surprising. With Christopher Plummer, Harry Morgan, Alexandra Paul, Elizabeth Ashley, and Dabney Coleman. (Chicago Ridge, Bolingbrook, Chestnut Station, Nortown, Ridge, Oakbrook, Golf Glen, River Oaks, Edens, Woodfield, Evanston, Norridge, Ford City East, Harlem-Cermak)

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