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8/23/17

SPY HARD - REVIEW


In the same spirit as the Naked Gun and Airplane! movies, Spy Hard was a joke-a-minute spoof movie starring Leslie Nielsen as a clueless James Bond-style agent. Released in 1996, the film may have done reasonably well at the box-office but it was also critically panned.

It's no secret that post-Naked Gun, comedies of that type, not just the ones starring Nielsen, failed to recapture the same quality established by Airplane! back in 1980. Even Airplane II: The Sequel, which came out only a couple of years later, couldn't nail it. There's no denying, however, that no matter how bad the movie was, Leslie Nielsen himself was always charming, likeable and very funny. Along with the underrated Wrongfully Accused and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Spy Hard was one of the actor's better later efforts as the Bond theme certainly provided a lot of material to work with from over-the-top plots and villains to goofy gadgets, femme fatales and an overly macho lead. The opening scene sets the cartoonish tone perfectly as secret agent Dick Steele (aka WD-40) parachutes down to the evil General Rancor's (Andy Griffith) lair while making himself a Martini and proceeds to foil his plan in the most ridiculous way possible. This leads us to an iconic "Weird Al" Yankovic opening title sequence that was perhaps too good to introduce the film since everything after that is less impressive in comparison.

The film sends up every action cliché you could think of and references films like Speed, In The Line Of Fire, True Lies, even Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid and Sister Act. There are also random cameos from the likes of Ray Charles, Mr. T, Hulk Hogan, Pat Morita and many others. The jokes overall are relatively hit-and-miss: they seem to somehow get worse as the movie goes on. Initially, the sight gags are mostly quite good and the film has a rhythm to it emphasising those rather well, which is partly why Police Squad! was such an effective show. If you're going to throw a joke at the audience every 12 seconds, you better hope that your film at least has the proper rhythm to make that work. Unfortunately, the third act is rushed through and, aside from a couple of funny lines, it includes a whole lot of half-assed jokes leaving you on the worst possible aspects of this movie, namely the clumsy direction, awkward editing and often unfocused writing. The film strays a bit too far from its initial spy movie premise at times, instead resorting to repeating Naked Gun jokes that simply made more sense in those movies.

While flawed and rather uneven when it comes to the jokes, Spy Hard is still an entertaining effort with enough funny moments to keep spoof movie and Leslie Nielsen fans satisfied. You can tell everyone had a lot of fun making the film and it translates into an overall enjoyably dumb experience.

Trashy, silly fun.

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