Johnny Dangerously was directed by Amy Heckerling, who made Fast Times at Ridgemont High and, like most other female directors, has been waiting for a chance to make a lot of money with a movie, waiting for her breakthrough film. This ought to be it: It's a splendid sophomoric comedy, and these days, in the time of Hollywood's perpetual freshmen, that's saying something. [21 Dec 1984, p.D1]
Johnny Dangerously winds down as it moves along, eventually descending to a lowest common denominator of dopey adolescent gags that overpower the parody. Still, even at its thinnest, it remains good-humored and intermittently entertaining.
Stapleton is also well-cast in her cliched role, as are Peter Boyle as the good mobster Dundee and Joe Piscopo as the bad Vermin. Deliberately overworking the Cagney mannerisms, Michael Keaton is initially good, too, in the title role, as is Griffin Dunne as Johnny’s D.A. brother. Unfortunately, the material given all of them just gets worse and worse.
The opening scenes of Johnny Dangerously are so funny you just don't see how they can keep it up. And you're right: They can't. But they make a real try. The movie wants to do for gangster films what Airplane! did for Airport, and Top Secret! did for spy movies.