“How silly can you get?” Val Kilmer sings in the 1984 film Top Secret! and the answer would appear to be very silly. Extremely silly. Nonsensically silly. Unbelievable silly. So silly that it transcends all formerly known types of silliness. In other words, this is a very silly film but that’s okay because it’s meant to be silly.
Some people, I know, would probably argue that Top Secret! doesn’t really qualify as a Spring Break film but I have to disagree. Like any good Spring Break film, a good deal of Top Secret! takes place on the beach and Val Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, a singer who is obviously meant to be a parody of the type of singers who used to regularly appear in the beach party movies of the 60s. Nick’s number one hit song is Skeet Surfin, which celebrates the sport of skeet shooting while on a surf board. The movie opens with hundreds of handsome young men jumping on surf boards while holding rifles. I honestly don’t know whether skeet surfing was every an actual sport but I certainly hope that it was because it looks like it would have been a lot of fun. Certainly, it would perk up the Olympics.
Of course, Nick is not the only person in the film whose life is connected to the beach. Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) spent much of her youth shipwrecked on a beach with Nigel (Christopher Villiers). Unfortunately, one day, Nigel went out to sea to search for help and he never returned. Hillary was eventually rescued. That’s certainly a sadder trip to the beach than Nick’s but still, a beach is a beach.
Hillary and Nick’s paths cross when Nick is invited to perform at a cultural festival in what, in 1984, was known was East Germany. Hillary is a member of the Resistance while her father, Dr. Paul Flammond (Michael Gough), is being held prisoner by the government and is being forced to design the type of secret weapons that are always at the heart of espionage adventures like this one. When Nick and Hillary meet, it’s love at first sight. Nick gets involved in the plan to save Hillary’s father and to thwart the insidious plans of the East German government. He also finds the time to sing a lot of songs.
The plot of Top Secret! isn’t really easy to describe. That’s largely because there really isn’t a plot in a conventional sense. Instead, there’s just one joke after another. The dialogue is purposefully nonsensical. The visuals are full of odd details. The jokes are frequently hilarious and, because they’re so fast and relentless, they’re also next to impossible to adequately describe. Much of the visual humor simply has to be seen to be understood and appreciated. For instance, it may sound slightly humorous to say that a scene features a stern-looking army officer answering a giant phone but you have to actually see the film to truly understand just how brilliantly Top Secret! pulls off the gag.
Of course, what really makes the film is work is Val Kilmer, who is young, handsome, and incredibly likable in the role of Nick. Kilmer delivers every bizarre line with a straight face and an enthusiastic earnestness that makes him the perfect center for all the craziness raging around him.
How silly can you get? Watch Top Secret! and find out!