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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Much of the fun has leeched out in the second installment of Michel Hazanavicius’s OSS spy spoof series. Jean Dujardin, who’d soon star for Hazanavicius in THE ARTIST/’11, repeats as the impossibly vain, impossibly dense, impossibly inept international spy who this time is being targeted by a Chinese cabal while hunting down an ex-Nazi with a microfiche listing of French collaborators. But he’s not alone, there’s the old CIA pal who alternately saves him, then sets him up; plus a sexy Israeli Mossad agent for Dujardin to hit on, and spy with. The running gag is that Dujardin is still the same politically incorrect Frenchman he was when the first film took place, more than a decade ago, a mid-1950s guy dropped into the fast-changing social milieu of the mid-1960s. Every time he opens his mouth, sexist, racist or anti-Semitic bon mots tumble out. They all land like lead balloons to the knowing characters on screen. Alas, they also land like lead balloons on the audience. (At least, on a Stateside audience.) Worse, Hazanavicius plays around with the colors & graphics of ‘60s filmmaking, but never responds or connects to the ‘60s style the way the first pic did with the ‘50s. There are laughs here and there, but the film only starts to build some real comic momentum in the last act when Hazanavicius stages a delicious slow-motion chase in a hospital, complete with a series of slapstick ‘toppers.’ Watch out for that elevator; and an emergency phone call that spirals into a screen-splitting fugue. Soon, he’s pretty much ditched the ‘60s and started foraging late ‘50s Hitchcock for inspiration. The big climax (a combo platter of VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST and SABOTAGE) brings back some of the visual elegance that made the first OSS spoof such a treat. But it was obviously time for everyone to move on.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT/DOUBLE-BILL: Stick with the first film, OSS: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES/’06 and double up with one of Rowan Atkinson’s JOHNNY ENGLISH spy spoofs, big hits everywhere but in the States.

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