I Can't Believe I Watched That: Spies Like Us

by jaredmoshe
September 25, 2009 9:14 AM
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I Can't Believe I Watched That
(A continuing series on films from my childhood that I discovered on Netflix Watch Now)

Spies Like Us
Directed by John Landis

In which: Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd join an unnamed US intelligence agency only to be sent out into the field as decoys as part of a conspiracy to test a Stars Wars style missile defense shield, and in the process save the whole world. Also, Chevy Chase hooks up with Dan Aykroyd's future ex-wife.

Won't you gentlemen have a pepsi? In re-watching what was a classic movie from my childhood I realized two things. First, this movie holds up so well that writing about it in a feature entitled "I Can't Believe I Watched That" seems immoral. Second, the obtuse and inane bureaucrats who send Aykroyd and Chase on their mission are actually funnier than Aykroyd and Chase themselves. Yes, it's our leads who provide us with the famous "doctor" scene; who dress up like weird space aliens in order to take down highly trained Russian soldiers; and who in the end save the world with a bobby pin. But, it's Keyes (William Prince) and Ruby (Bruce Davison) who steal the show with their attempts to keep documents classified by trapping a courier in a closet and have to find a secret military bunker below the Ace Tomato Company.

Chevy Chase, who this week makes his (triumphant?) return to television with Community plays Chevy Chase. Aykroyd stretches more, although his character is really a riff on the uber-nerd he always plays (I don't think it was really until '97s Gross Pointe Blank that Aykroyd really got to shine). The rest of the cast does what they need to do: Donna Dixon as a hot spy for Chase to fawn at, Vanessa Angel as the hot woman in her underwear, and Frank Oz as the annoyed Test Monitor. Aside from Prince and Davison, the other real stand out is Steve Forrest as the balls to the walls General who demonstrates a Bush era sense of patriotism. Take the following interaction, which occurs while a Russian nuke is speeding towards Washington after the missile defense shield fails:

Keyes: By your actions, sir, you are risking the future of the human race!
General Sline: To guarantee the American way of life, I'm willing to take that risk.

Dick Cheney couldn't have said it better himself.


What the critics said then:

'Spies Like Us,'' which features Mr. Chase and Mr. Aykroyd and opens today at the RKO National Twin and other theaters, has some enjoyable moments, particularly when its two stars are going through their initial attempts to win the audience over. But it is very much in the oversized, overpriced New Comedy mode. The film is being shown, quite unnecessarily, in 70 millimeter at several theaters, and it has a plot that takes its heroes all over the globe; the last half-hour or so is given over to dull but extravagant action-adventure. There are seeds of something funny in the film's beginning and in its premise, but they are soon dissipated by so little sustained wit, and so much scenery.r. - Janet Maslin, NY Times

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