Spy Hard

Spy Hard. Hollywood Pictures 1996.

Before watching the movie:

Remember a few years months ago, when Leslie Nielsen died? At first, I didn’t think anything of it in connection to this blog, but then it was suggested to me that I should make some recognition of it in a selection.

I have two methods of obtaining my movies. One can be fast or slow, and one is medium in speed. I expected the first to be slower, so I went to the second one. The reason this is a month after the fact is because “medium” was actually “slowest.” Then I tried to use the first in a fast mode, but I didn’t quite think it through and ended up delaying another week.

Anyway, this looks like a good late Leslie Nielsen film, which probably means it’s mediocre. As far as I know, that’s the best one can say about his movies after the second Naked Gun movie. Or perhaps anything other than Airplane and The Naked Gun series. More to the point, he’s playing a dimwitted Bond spoof instead of a dimwitted police officer. Also Weird Al Yankovic wrote the theme song.

After watching the movie:

Dick Steele, agent WD-40, is recalled from retirement when General Rancor, who was thought dead in a blast years ago but merely had his arms blown off, abducts agent Barbara Dahl, the daughter of Steele’s dead partner/lover, and announces that he’s going to launch a devastating missile with Dahl strapped to the warhead if the world governments don’t cede control to him. Steele’s quest is aided by the lovely agent 3.14, but her main concern is for her scientist father, whom Rancor needs for his missile.

I actually enjoyed this film mostly. Some jokes were overused, and there was some crudeness I could have done without, but nothing lasted long enough to make me say “this is no longer funny.”  The writers of this movie went on to make Scary Movie and the other “______ Movie” films. This was what they made before they started to exaggerate the worst parts of their comedy style, and it’s probably the last I’d recommend indiscriminately.

Nielsen is in one of his more intelligent roles in this film, and I like that. He’s still a comedian and not a straight man, but he’s less of a bumbler than in some other films. The villain is played by, of all people, Andy Griffith. While I didn’t find myself thinking he was too nice to be a villain, he was too… not nasty? He didn’t seem to be acting so much as having fun. He seemed like even less of a threat than a comedy of this caliber should have made him.

This movie at times took a turn for the cartoonish, which I didn’t really like. Of course, the style of humor is already a little cartoony, but it says a lot about a live action film when one of the sight gags is a character actually having their eyes bug out. It was even done with physical props, which just makes it more gross than comical.

As I said, this is one of the better movies that was able to use Leslie Nielsen. I consider it among the films that he should be remembered by, a rarity among his films that cast him on his reputation in comedy (Airplane and Police Squad/The Naked Gun were cast from his serious work) .  It’s not a perfect comedy (it made me ask the most, “why would any woman agree to be Leslie Nielsen’s love interest?”), but it’s pretty close. Closer than The Naked Gun 33 1/3.

 

Watch this movie: As a great comedy with a great comedian.

Don’t watch this movie: As a great spy movie.

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