a critiQal film review Spy Hard (1996)

  • DVD

Plot: When General Rancor (Griffith) threatens to destroy the world, Secret Agent WD-40, a.k.a. Dick Steele (Nielsen), is assigned to track him down. Steele is joined by a beautiful KGB agent (Sheridan), and together they elude Rancor's henchmen, escape speeding vehicles, avoid booby traps and thwart kidnap attempts (and have time for a little dining and dancing) as they make their way to General Rancor's lair.

560 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 48s)

The late Leslie Nielsen became the king of spoof flicks after his turns in both Airplane! and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) – but that turned into an old joke after he continued to spurn out stinkers like 2001: A Space Travesty, Wrongfully Accused and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

Would his turn in Spy Hard be any different, or would “Weird Al” Yankovic singing the theme song be the best part of this spy spoof?

By the time he made Spy Hard, Leslie Nielsen could probably have done his role in his sleep. Full of slapstick, crude humor and sight gags, he bumbles his way through his role without any effort at all – and it’s entirely too evident. Gone is the glee with which he threw himself into new situations in films like The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988). In Spy Hard, even when the film blatantly rips off the love sequence from The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) – including the romance montage, the sexual symbolism and the “from the heart” confession of love (although the full-body condom is conspicuous by it’s absence) – the viewer can almost hear the yawn in his voice. He’s just going through the motions once again, and viewers will quickly get bored.

Most of the rest of the cast is largely wasted, a sadly typical scenario for silly spoof films like Spy Hard. Nicollette Sheridan pops up as little more than eye candy, while Marcia Gay Harden takes the limelight for only one brief sequence before fading into the background once more. Even Barry Bostwick, who was hilarious as the Mayor on is completely wasted in Spy Hard, with his big moment coming too late to make a difference.

A lot of that can be blamed on the plot. Obviously, the focus of the film was to find some way – however flimsy – to tie in as many spoofs of popular films as possible. While the spoofs, ranging from Cliffhanger (1993) to Pulp Fiction (1994) – along with the expected James Bond/Mission: Impossible (TV) satires – are both easily recognizable and plentiful. The thread that ties them together, however, is just plain silly, and without anything substantial to tie the pieces together, the viewer will quickly lose interest with the seemingly unending barrage of spoofs.

Unfortunately, Spy Hard is just another Leslie Nielsen film that wants to be as good of a spoof film as The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) or Airplane!, but just can’t be bothered to spend time trying to make it worth seeing. Instead, it’s nothing but an endless barrage of spoofs the viewer will quickly tire of.

In fact, the best parts of the film lie with “Weird Al” Yankovic singing the theme song at the beginning of the film (which includes his own nod of approval when he sees his name during the opening credits) and the crazy items slipped in during the scrolling credits at the end (including “KUNG FU GRIP: G.I. Joe”, “Chicago Gangboss: Al Capone” and “Gorgeous Blonde’s Phone Number: Still Trying To Get It” ). When the best parts of the film are those the star isn’t actually in, that’s kinda sad – especially in a spoof film obviously built with it’s star in mind.

Our advice on the best way to watch Spy Hard? Watch the opening credits, fast-forward to the ending credits – then go re-watch The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988). You’ll be much happier.

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