Thursday, September 1, 2011

'Spy Hard': Where the suckage began

Spy Hard (1996)
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Nicolette Sheridan, John Ales, Stephanie Romanov, Charles Durning, Barry Bostwick, Andy Griffith, and Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Rick Friedberg
Rating: One of Ten Stars

When I saw the names Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer in the credits, I should have known what I was in for. "But," I told myself, this is an older film and Leslie Nielsen is starring, so it can't possibly be as bad as their more recent efforts like 'Epic Movie' and 'Disaster Movie.'"

Alas, I was wrong.

Even in their debut film, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer--only writing here, with the directorial chores being handled by Jason's father Rick--they sucked. In fact, this movie is a little worse than "Disaster Movie" because it doesn't even have a character as hilariously insane as the Enchanted Princess. It barely has any funny jokes.

A limp-wristed spoof of James Bond-style action flicks, the film's story-line sees Special Agent WD-40 (Leslie Nielsen) come out of retirement to save the daughter of his old partner and lover (Stephanie Romanov) from the clutches of megalomaniacal villain General Rancor (Andy Griffith). Along the way, we are treated to badly executed sight gags, poorly delivered slapstick routines, and numerous of the lame references-to-other-films-passed-off-as-jokes that Team Friedberg & Seltzer have become infamous for. The worst (or perhaps most iconic for Friedberg & Seltzer) of these is a dance scene based on the Uma Thurman/John Travolta dance in "Pulp Fiction"... it is random, pointless, and absolutely unfunny--the cinematic equivalent of non-biodegradable Styrofoam packing peanuts.

I watched this film in a mindset that had me very eager to be entertained; I was suffering from writer's block on two different projects (a werewolf story and a game featuring supermodels beating the hell out of each other) and I needed a movie to write about for the Watching the Detectives blog, and still I was so bored with what was unfolding before me that I barely made it to the end.

The best part of this film was casting Andy Griffith against type, but even that amounts to little more than Team Friedberg & Seltzer's random references to other movies. This can't even do the repetition gag properly--where the same joke comes back again and again in slightly different forms. In a Zucker-helmed project those kinds of jokes can be the funniest moment in the entire film, but here they are just eye-rollingly stupid.

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