Friday, August 12, 2016

The Trouble With Spies

Year 8, Day 224 - 8/11/16 - Movie #2,419

BEFORE: This might feel like another sudden left turn, but I assure you, there is a connection.  Frank Welker is a voice-over artist - and if you really want to see who's got the most acting credits on IMDB, check out Frank or some other voice-over actors - and he provided the lead voice of Curious George yesterday.  Tonight he voices a parrot named Perky, and I bet dubbing in a parrot's voice is a lot easier than training one to say something.  Frank also voiced the dog in "Hudson Hawk", and tomorrow he'll make his 7th appearance in the blog this year, by voicing a cat. 

This might seem like a cheat - but it's not.  Voice-over work is just as valid as live-action acting, and I treat it the same, more or less.  I've never fallen back on linking through singers in background music, for example, but voice-over work recorded for a film totally counts.  Plus, it gets me to where I need to be for this weekend.

THE PLOT:  A British spy has gone incommunicado in Ibiza. Appleton Porter is sent to find out what happened to him, and survives several attempts on his life as he attempts to solve the mystery.

AFTER: Of course, the advantage of linking through the voice of the parrot means that I can cross this film off the list, and it was sort of circulating around the end of the list after several attempts to link to it.  I recorded it to go on a DVD with the Melissa McCarthy film "Spy", but I just couldn't find a path to itFilms like "Deliverance" or "Way...Way Out" that shared actors were all necessary parts of the Burt Reynolds or Jerry Lewis chains.  

But after all that effort, I wish it were a better film - it's just a below-average story that goes nowhere. There have been other films that depicted screw-ups working as secret agents, like "Spies Like Us" or "Johnny English", all of which are funnier than this.  When someone sets out to make a combination comedy/spy film, it's got to go really far in both directions at the same time in order to succeed, and this one doesn't go far enough in either.  

This was originally made for TV (HBO?) in 1984, but was not released until 1987.  It's easy to see why someone sat on it for so long - they were probably embarrassed about it, and probably it was only released during a very desperate slow period for some studio.  The acting from Ruth Gordon and Robert Morley is WAY over the top, and Donald Sutherland just looks like he'd rather be anywhere else, doing anything else.  It's very strange when you think of the success that his son later had playing a secret agent on "24", and contrast that with this.  

The plot's a mess, too - I don't think we ever get to the bottom of the drug connection, and we never get to see the amazing truth serum being used, so what's the point?  And why was it so important that he save the parrot from the burning building?  That feels like it should be important, somehow - like maybe the talking parrot would say a clue that would break the case open, but that never happened.  It's like someone introduced a bunch of random plot elements and then forgot about most of them.  People dress in disguise and follow other people around, they listen in on conversations and try to carry out assassination attempts.  The emphasis is on the word "attempts", because none of them seem to go well.   

So, in the end it just feels like a waste of everyone's time, especially the audience's.  Especially mine.  But as I said, the best thing I can say about this film is that it gets me to where I need to go.  

Also starring Donald Sutherland (last seen in "Pride & Prejudice"), Ned Beatty (last seen in "Deliverance", Ruth Gordon (last seen in "Harold and Maude"), Lucy Gutteridge, Robert Morley (last seen in "Way...Way Out") Michael Hordern, Gregory Sierra, Suzanne Danielle, Fima Noveck.

RATING: 3 out of 10 potted plants

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