Friday, June 19, 2009

Spy Hard (1996)

Starring Leslie Nielsen, Nicollette Sheridan, Charles Durning, et al
Rated PG-13, 81 minutes

I’ve had the pleasure lately to have digital cable in my home. Strangely, I found the interactive guide to be my favorite feature above OnDemand and the expanded channel selection. But, with time to kill, I decided to peruse the OnDemand free movies section. It was here I knew I’d find movies I’d otherwise not take the effort to see.

Enter “Spy Hard.” Leslie Nielsen stars in this “Naked Gun” version of James Bond. General Rancor (played by Andy Griffith) is threatening to destroy the earth. Our hero, surrounded by gags, is on the case.

I frankly don’t wish to expend the energy in telling you too much about this one. It was a Leslie Nielsen comedy. It should’ve had the tools to at least be passably funny. We had the typical cast of well-known actors – Robert Guilliame, Barry Bostwick, Marcia Gay Harden. “Weird” Al Yankovic did the mock-Bond title sequence. Sadly, this movie came up way short.

“Spy Hard” used the tried-and-true “Naked Gun” formula of nailing you with joke after joke, sight gag after sight gag. I laughed large when I saw “Naked Gun” – even the lesser sequels. But the jokes and gags here barely elicited a chuckle for effort. Apparently for the makers of this film, more was more. It would have been funnier in places NOT to have a joke. When you see a character pass by a door labeled “MAIN ENTRANCE” in big bold letters, you know a door with a gag entrance sign is up ahead.

Other gags were a painful trip back in time, with VCR jokes and references to “Speed.” When it’s funny, you can forgive being dated. It should come as no surprise this came from the writing duo attached to “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie” and that ilk. This movie was not quite as bad in the “product of its own time” department, but you could feel their influence. “Spy Hard” probably would have produced big laughs in a roomful of elementary school kids – but I guess there was enough targeted towards an older crowd to warrant a PG-13 rating.

I did laugh a couple of times. Getting Ray Charles to play a bus driver was a boon. Hulk Hogan and Dr. Joyce Brothers in a cameo as tag team partners was nice. The movie’s version of Macaulay Culkin being dragged up the stairs “for ‘My Girl’ and ‘My Girl 2’” was funny (“but I wasn’t in ‘My Girl 2!!’” “we don’t care!”). And Pat Morita had a tiny, but laugh-inducing role as a gay waiter.


But, when you’re boiling it down to the redeeming jokes – which make up scant minutes of an already scant film – you can’t give it a high score. I wanted it to be a doppelganger “Naked Gun.” It was – but it didn’t try to imitate the funny.

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