Spy Hard (1996)

Directed by Rick Friedberg
Leslie Nielson, Nicolette Sheridan, Charles Durning, Andy Griffith, Marcia Gay Harden, Stephanie Romanov, Barry Bostwick,
Cameos by Dr. Joyce Brothers, Ray Charles, Hulk Hogan, Robert Culp, Fabio, Mr. T, Pat Morita
Music by Bill Conti

After the success of Airplane (or Flying High as it is known in Oz), Leslie Nielson went on the star as Lt. Frank Drebin, first in the tv series Police Squad and then in three The Naked Gun movies. Nielson was a resounding success as a comedy actor, after years of playing the straight guy. But a part of this success was to do with the material provided by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. Capitalising on his success, Neilson went on to make more scattershot comedies in the Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker style, but lacked the spark and quality of jokes that the original product had. Spy Hard is one of these lesser comedies. It has one or two good moments, but on the whole it is not particularly funny and therefore a pretty poor film.

The film opens with Dick Steel, Agent WD40 (Leslie Nielson) rushing by chopper to the headquarters of evil doer, General Rancor (Andy Griffith). Rancor has stolen a scorpion missile and intends to use it for some evil deed (it’s not really specified, but no doubt involves the death of countless innocent people). Steel parachutes out of the helicopter and lands in Rancor’s compound. As Rancor attempts to leave with the missile, Steel attaches a bomb to Rancor’s helicopter and blows it up mid air. The shock from the blast sends Steel’s fellow agent Victoria Dahl (Stephanie Romanov) over a cliff and to her death.

After the title sequence, it is fifteen years later, and Agent Barbara Dahl (also Stephanie Romanov) is breaking into Rancor Industries. Somehow Rancor survived Steel’s bomb, but now is missing his arms. He doesn’t have steel hands, he has steel arms. He captures Barbara Dahl and straps her to the nose cone of his new weapon, a giant rocket. Naturally, Agent WD40 is called out of retirement to once again thwart General Rancor.

Like so many other films of this kind, Spy Hard serves up scenes borrowed form other popular blockbusters of the day, but twisted to fit into the story. Here they reference Mission Impossible, Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid, In The Line Of Fire, Cliffhanger, Speed, Pulp Fiction, Home Alone, Sister Act and True Lies.

The best sequence in this film is the titles by Weird Al Yankovic. It borrows heavily from Thunderball with silhouettes swimming through the background, but it doesn’t limit it self to finely proprotioned models and scuba divers. I kid you not, that this is the only bit in the movie that I laughed out loud at.

Generally, I don’t mind comedy spy films, but maybe because the straight up spy films have so much humour in them to begin with, the exaggerated versions tend to fall flat on their face. This film is pretty poor. It makes the Austin Powers series seem like high art. I’d give this one a miss.

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