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12/24/13

SPIES LIKE US - REVIEW


Spies Like Us looked set to become one of the biggest comedy hits out there back in the day: you had Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase in the leads, John Landis directing and a promising plot about two idiots promoted to go out on the field as spies in order to serve as a distraction for a real mission.

Despite mostly cold reviews from critics at the time, the film eventually gained something of a cult following and, although I do personally like the movie, I could definitely see why people might not like it. First off, it's very hit-and-miss. It's the kind of comedy where you basically know what joke characters are building up to like 5 minutes before the actual joke happens and when it does, there's no real surprise. It doesn't help that some of the jokes in the movie last forever. A classic Marx Brothers-style one involving a bunch of people saying "doctor" to each other (a lot) takes a while to conclude, as does one in which Chevy Chase's character attempts to cheat on an exam. That last part, I'll admit, is pretty effective, though. In lesser hands, Spies Like Us could have easily fallen completely flat and been unanimously hated as a film. Kinda like Sgt Bilko, I guess. But Chase and Aykroyd are so much fun that the film is really hard to dislike despite its less hilarious moments. I think the problem is that the film feels like an old-fashioned vaudeville act a lot of the time and it came out in the mid 80's, at a time when a lot of fresh, unique comedies were being released. To be fair, however, that was pretty much exactly the film's intent seeing as it was a homage to those old Bob Hope (he cameos briefly in the film) and Bing Crosby Road To... movies so it all depends on whether you like that style of humour or not, whether you find it funny or not.

The plot sees our bumbling duo get parachuted down to an army base where they go through some somewhat ridiculous training and are finally sent on an undefined mission in Soviet Central Asia where they get into all sort of trouble. Of course, the main spy team suffers a set-back, only one of them survives, and the whole real mission ends up resting on Chase, Aykroyd and the surviving spy's shoulders. As a Cold War comedy, this certainly is more of a gentle spoof than, say, Dr Strangelove, to the point where it almost feels like patriotic propaganda made solely to amuse the US troops. It's strange how the film is both very much of its time and yet has a definite 1940's feel. No wonder it alienated some critics who were expecting another National Lampoon's Vacation. The film did extremely well at the box-office, though, and it's still an enjoyable movie to this day. Not much more to say about this one, really, except that it's pretty harmless, charming yet very silly and includes a scene in which Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase pretend to be aliens to confuse Soviet spies. It's basically a live-action Warner Bros. cartoon but set during the Cold War. Yes the humour can be pretty broad, not too fresh and doesn't always work but Spies Like Us is a likeable movie nonetheless. It has enough charm and gusto to keep you watching and you should definitely have some fun with it, especially if you like the leads.

Although some won't really find this one all that funny, most should find Spies Like Us to be at least an entertaining ride. It's no The Blues Brothers or Animal House but it's worth a watch, especially if you enjoy old comedies of that type. Hell, you can even play a drinking game spotting all the cameos and taking a sip every time someone actually says "spies like us"!

Amusing.

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