Infamous for their pop-culture heavy parodies, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have struck infamy. But like most meteoric rises to notoriety, this partnership must have started somewhere. In 1996, attempting to emulate the style of the parody films created by the beloved creative partnership, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, the two worked on a script that will become the first of many parody films that the duo would embark on in Spy Hard.
Dick Steele (codename WD-40) is a former agent who is called back into service to, once again, foil the plans and match wits against his arch-nemesis Rancor. A master criminal who nefarious arm-smuggling is back on the scene, hell-bent on world domination. In this quest, Veronique Ukrinsky, aka Agent 3.14 is there to aid the retiring agent and rescue her father, held by Rancor. The two will go through a variety of outlandish scenarios, some recognisable from other films, but most of them deadly, giving the audience the ultimate mission, to laugh themselves silly.
After his successful career in the Zucker Brothers classic sendups, Leslie Nielsen made a name for himself capitalising his straight man image into comedic foil, so his return is a natural fit. One that Nielsen still delivers on. His adversary, Rancor, played by TVs Matlock Andy Griffith, a wild departure from the loveable lawyer from the T.V. Accompanying them Nicollette Sheridan is also a good fit as Agent 3.14. As you can imagine, knowledge of the genre is beneficial, as the film draws broad tropes of spy fiction, but the majority can be enjoyed without extensive knowledge of the spy genre, a trait that will be useful in the subsequent Friedberg and Seltzer films. The gag ratio is particularly high with hardly a single frame going by without a visual gag, pratfall, or pun, regardless of how you like your comedy, you will find plenty of reasons to laugh.
The credits also masterfully spoof James Bond and let another Zucker Veteran, “Weird Al” Yankovic, shine his talents. Like most Bond songs, the song is impressive, but Yankovic manages to create a parody that retains the style of the original, to the extent that you cannot tell the difference. But the spoofing is not exclusive to spy films, as other pop-culture mainstays get skewered. Particularly a parody of the Home Alone franchise is remarkable especially with the casting of McLuckey (see what they did there?), with Macaulay Culkin stand-in, Mason Gamble in the lead. As to be expected, famous faces are frequent here, as the likes of Robert Culp and Barry Bostwick. Even cameos from the likes of Ray Charles, offering palate cleansing opportunities from the sensational spy spoofs.
Despite clocking in at 10 minutes fewer than most films, Spy Hard packs in a lot, whether it be stars, or gags, or even international espionage. A spy send-up that had a lot to work with, predating the subsequently successful spy comedies like Austin Powers and Johnny English. Backed up by a veteran cast that still brings their a-game and a plucky duo that was just starting. For those thinking that the parody genre was perfected with the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, Spy Hard shows that the genre may only live twice.
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