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Sunday Stupid: Tom Hanks raps! And dances! Kind of! And Dan Aykroyd does too!

July 19, 2015

Tom Hanks has evolved into a modern version of revered screen stars of yore, well-liked both for his work onscreen and his amiable, even keel off of it: a latter-day Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, etc. Does anyone out there hate the guy? Anybody? And why would they? Unless, of course, they’re still steamed about wasting their money on Joe Versus the Volcano tickets. But really, who’s still grinding that ax? (Okay, I still am — I wanted to go see The Hunt for Red October, but my stupid friends insisted on Joe. Yeah, I ran with some real dummies back in the day.)

It’s been so long since Philadelphia diverted Hanks to a serious, Oscar-bait career trajectory, we forget that most of his early movies were zany comedies that tried to outdo one another in their silliness. And there may be no sillier moment in Hanks’s 1980s oeuvre than a little side project that went along with one of those comedies. The “City of Crime” music video ladies and gentlemen. Well, this exists.

In 1987’s Dragnet, a loving sequel/homage/parody of the old Jack Webb radio/TV series, Tom Hanks was second fiddle to Dan Aykroyd, then the bigger star of the two, at the crest (the waning crest, but still) of his Blues Brothers/Ghostbusters fame. Aykroyd played Joe Friday, nephew and namesake of Webb’s character, while Hanks portrayed his new partner, Pep Streebeck — one of the greatest names in film history, by the way. The two had wonderful chemistry with one another, with Friday the anachronistic, by-the-book cop with a fedora straight out of the 1950s, and Streebeck a man of the 1980s, a hip, irreverent foil to his straight-laced cohort.

Dragnet is remembered as a critical failure, but I have a soft spot for it. The original show retains a stiff charm in this new millennium (it’s endearing in its mannerisms and right-of-center do-goodery), and the movie was that perfect kind of send-up: one that loved what it was making fun of. The Virgin Connie Swail. Dabney Coleman’s “balls as big as church bells.” Harry Morgan reprising his old role as Friday the Elder’s partner Bill Gannon, now the man in charge. Christopher Plummer’s oily preacher, who leads a goat-centric cult on the side: People Against Goodness And Normalcy. Non from Superman II as Emil Muzz, who runs over Friday’s feet and has his balls crushed in a drawer. Aykroyd’s magnificent rapid-fire diction as he quotes California statutes.

It has its moments.

Anyway, those who sat through the closing credits of the movie may have heard a rappy, hip-hoppish song called “City of Crime,” and if their ears were sharp enough, they may have realized that it was Hanks and Aykroyd belting out the lyrics, in character. Which was goofy enough, and may have been the end of it. But years later, thanks to the power of the internet, many learned that there was an actual music video accompanying this ridiculous piece of music, one that was recorded for posterity off a TV airing and enshrined on your video sharing site of choice. And this wasn’t some cheap rush-job music video either, one cobbled together from movie clips. This was an original production, with costumes and dancing and plenty of embarrassment to go around. Vince McMahon, eat your heart out.

Highlights? Hanks’s total commitment to the bit, an abandon that stood him in good stead during many SNL hosting gigs. The reappearance of the P.A.G.A.N. goat leggings. Seeing Hanks cage dance in bicycle cop short-shorts. Aykroyd’s slick Elwood Blues dance moves — though maybe he filled out his own bike cop outfit a tad too much.

It’s all good.

For those of us who really liked the movie — all four of us — the video only amplifies our love. And for the rest, it’s something to be held over Hanks’s head. Yes, you have the love of audiences worldwide and the respect of your peers, but you once made this, sir.

One question remains: Is this video the cornerstone of Chet Haze’s street cred — or lack thereof?

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