Over a span of more than thirty years, the team of the Zucker brothers - Jerry and David - and Jim Abrahams have, individually and jointly, created a veritable library of American comedy classics. In 1977, when audiences were also celebrating the cerebral genius of Woody Allen in the Oscar-winning Annie Hall, the first product of the trio’s writing, Kentucky Fried Movie, became an almost instant cult hit. A collection of sketches that were as funny as they were irreverent and tasteless, it was an alternative for audience tastes that were beginning to diverge.
Following on the Kentucky Fried Movie, the team followed in 1980 with Airplane!, a unmitigated box-office success that also received a surprising reception from critics. Their next screen effort would not come until 1984 with Top Secret!, a movie that promised to deliver the same visual gags and tongue-in-cheek deadpan dialogue to a new subject.
Although landing short of Airplane! in terms of the script's ingenuity, Top Secret! did have the prestige of introducing audiences to Val Kilmer. The exposure almost certainly led to subsequent comedic roles that would pay his bills, bulk up his resume, and enabled him to land the role in Top Gun that would launch him to superstar status in the 1990s.
Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, an American rock 'n' roll sensation in the mold of Elvis Presley, a role that he plays extremely well. The movie contains six parody songs, each of which is sung by Kilmer himself, a skill he showed again when playing – no, inhabiting – the part of Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors. Even as a freshman actor, his understanding of comedic timing and line delivery shows great maturity lending some weight to the argument that the greatest talent the Zucker/Zucker/Abraham team have is in making casting decisions.