Spies Like Us (1985)
User ReviewsReview this title
If not...Then you need to take a moment to look at your life, relax, and just enjoy something every once in a while.
The setting changes rapidly from DC, to Pakistan, to the former Soviet Union. Chase and Aykroyd are identified as expendable Department of State personnel, and therefore trained as covert agent decoys and tasked with an ultra top-secret mission deep inside Soviet territory. The newly appointed agent/spies don't realize they're decoys, but rather, think they're real agents on a real mission. Good stuff.
Together, their bumbling antics throughout agent training and their top-secret mission are good for steady laughs from beginning to end, as they find themselves playing the "accidental hero" role charged with saving the world.
Very scenic locations, some decent special effects (for the mid-80's), and some serious plot-twists amidst the silly humor enables "Spies Like Us" to hold the viewer's attention in-between comedic situations.
Aykroyd and Chase are hilarious and this movie is a laugh a minute. Yes, there are dumb jokes, slapstick humor, ridiculous scenarios and odd cameos (doctor? doctor?)...But that's what's great about it, you just turn your brain off and take it in.
I've seen this movie a hundred times and could watch it a hundred more, I guess it's one of those "love it or hate it" things. But "we mock what we don't understand".
Judging by the comments given about Spies Like Us, it seems most people, in fact, do like it. Of course, it is meant to be a comedy and nothing else. If people were looking for a break-through in film by watching Spies Like Us, then, Yes...you would be let down.
Good characters, akward situations, nice changes in scenery, and classic one-liners....I'd give it an 8, overall.
Emmett Fitz-Hume and Austin Millbarge (Chase and Aykroyd) are two lowly government workers who are suddenly promoted to the elite GLG-20 spy status after they are caught cheating on a test. What they don't know is that they are just decoys to draw heat away from the real spies and are promptly dumped straight into enemy territory.
Chase and Aykroyd have great chemistry together and I'm surprised they didn't work together much after this (although they did hook up for The Couch Trip, Caddyshack 2 and Nothing But Trouble). There's loads of fun to had in watching them bumble from one zany situation from the next. And, as this is a Landis film, there are director cameos all over the place. Keep a lookout for Terry Gilliam, Martin Brest, Joel Coen, Sam Raimi etc.
Despite the fanbase, Warner have never showed this film any respect or given special treatment of any kind when it comes to the home video market. As I already said, as of yet the only DVD available is the fullscreen version from 1998. Even the HD version I watched was from a very murky print and has terrible sound. If Warner make a Blu Ray from this master it's still not worth buying.
Give it a rent unless a proper remaster is done. Which is unlikely.
Two low-level government employees, Emmitt Fitz-Hume (played by Chevy Chase) and Austin Milbarge (Dan Aykroyd), are chosen for a top- secret CIA mission. They are unsuitable as CIA agents but are deliberately chosen for this reason, as their mission is a decoy one and they are expendable. After being fast-tracked through training they are parachuted into Pakistan where all manner of adventures await them.
Quite funny at times, but also very silly at times. Plot is pretty basic and some of the sub-plots are plain stupid. However, for the most part, it works.
The main reason for this is Chevy Chase. He gets some great lines and delivers them perfectly. Dan Aykroyd is fine as the straight man but it is Chevy Chase that makes the movie watchable.
Another positive is the pace of the movie. It is quite frenetic, so even if a scene is a dead end, it is over quickly and we move onto the next scene. The pace helps to cover up the blemishes.
Not a must-see, but there are worse ways to spend 100 or so minutes.
I like it. I love it. Always have, always will. That doesn't mean I'm going to be the foremost partisan and start bashing people on the head who disagree. But as one who feels that this flick is worth a watch, at the very least, so that the viewer can decide for him/herself, I think it is my clear duty to say why Spies Like Us rocks my world. I can't make a guarantee: "You'll love this movie!" But I do firmly believe that it is at least worth the three bucks to rent it for a week.
Summary without spoilers: Spies Like Us is the story of two government rubes--Chevy Chase is Emmet Fitzhume, a low-level D.C.-based diplomat, with next to no dedication to his work; he just followed blindly in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Austin Milbarge is a code-breaker and all-things-electric guru who works a dead-end job in the subterranean bowels of the Pentagon. Both men want something more, and have signed up for the Foreign Service exam. However they become the pawns in a deadly cloak-and-dagger operation run by a secretive government agency that fronts as the Ace Tomato Company and the commander of an underground Air Force base. Soon Austin and Emmet find themselves hurried through training and thrust into a mission that will take them across Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.
Well there's your back-of-box story. So far it doesn't sound very different from Three Days of the Condor, or Sneakers, or some other movie without Robert Redford (hey, Spies Like Us doesn't have Robert Redford, so there you go). But of course this movie is laced heavily throughout with Ackroyd's strait-laced goofiness and Chase's masterful physical ineptitude. It may not have been a stretch for either one of these men to perform their characters...maybe they really did just walk onto the set, do their thing, sign some autographs, flirt with actresses, collect their pay and scoot. But "doing their thing" is what works for these guys. It's like Adam Sandler--he does his schtick and you laugh or you groan.
I have to disagree heartily with those comments that put down the directing and the script. This is one of the most quotable movies I know, for better or for worse, and while I wasn't really watching for direction too much, I found nothing seriously amiss. I think this movie, as a broad comedy, works.
Granted: this movie was etched onto my brain at a very tender age. I saw it in the theater at the age of five. I watched it again and again for years, up to the present day. It is dear to me, and so I probably graciously look past its flaws. If you are so annoyed at anachronism, eighties movies, star comic duos, inane jokes, cameos, and improbable endings that you just cannot, will not think of anything else while you watch, then you just may not like it all that much, or possibly you're just a stuffed shirt.
The cameos: Frank Oz, B.B. King, Terry Gilliam, John Landis, et al. Hey, when I was a kid the only cameo I actually recognized was Bob Hope, so it didn't bother me at all. Of course, having never seen a Hope movie at that point, I didn't much get it anyway.
Further comment on another track: this movie is also a broad satire, the subtlety of which is often almost eclipsed by the jokes and pratfalls. But if you look for it, it's there at every turn. If you didn't live through part of the Cold War, it may not be very obvious at all, or may merely appear dull and lifeless. But this movie took place in the midst of perestroika. This time was a curious mix of paranoia, fear, threat, tentative cooperation and normalization. And of course part of it is set in Afghanistan towards the end of the Soviet war there, a region which has taken on an entirely new meaning in the last few years in the minds of any American exposed to the popular press. I like to think that the satire still works; indeed it is very like Dr. Strangelove, but while the latter movie was comic-absurdist, Spies Like Us appropriates the power of Strangelove and subsumes it under hilarity. It is up to the individual viewer to decide if this works or not.
Finally, once again, the script: I think it really works. I think Ackroyd and Chase and, indeed, most of the other actors nail it. The dialogue between the Ace Tomato boys and the Air Force general is pretty fun. Some scripts just stink, and others are undeniably superb, and others can go either way. A joke can stand or fall. I don't deliver jokes very well, but someone else can take my exact words and make it funny. Monty Python, for instance, I think is freakin' hilarious---BUT, when I hear anybody else try to imitate their style, delivery or writing, I usually think it's incredibly dorky, lame, and irritating, which is to say absolutely unbearable. A case in point would be my college humor magazine, which confined itself to attempted British humor and Mac/PC/Windows/Linux jokes, and often tried to combine the two. Dreadful. But check out the quotes page for this movie, and try to imagine the lines being delivered by the actors. What looks flat in print often comes to life on the screen.
Here's a little sample, perhaps a mild SPOILER: It starts with Russian KGB, in dialogue with Fitzhume (with apologies for errors; it's been a while): (Brandishing shiny blade) "Every thirty seconds you do not tell us why you're here, I cut off a finger." "Mine or yours?" "Yours." "Damn!" "You have twenty seconds." "You're not going to start humming the theme from Jeopardy, are you?(Gets slapped by second KGB.) Why are you still hitting me? He's gonna cut my fingers off!"
Okay, so now I'm really done--if you consider yourself intelligent and receptive to different kinds of humor, from high-brow to low-brow, from Coen bros to the Farrelly bros, and are willing to look past a few inherent flaws, I think there is a good chance, maybe 65%, that you will really like this movie. So give it a go.
It's a helluva lot better than Mamet.
Our two leads do manage to create some funny moments, but they never really hit top gear in a movie which is consistently average. Both Aykroyd and Chase have been better, and both have had better material to work with I'm sure.
Look out for a very funny cameo from one of the world's most loved entertainers. A definite highlight.
Friday, April 30, 1993 - T.V.
This is a fun movie and it's great to see Chase and Aykroyd when they were so young, the latter with a quintessential 80's haircut. The best highlights are the awesome globe-spanning locations and the two female co-stars, Donna Dixon and Vanessa Angel, but not enough is done with 'em. The film's just not funny enough and it's hard to believe the producers went to such great expense, but failed to hire writers who knew how to do comedy. We're left with a fun, but throwaway flick; even Hope's cameo is a waste of celluloid.
The film runs 102 minutes and was shot in Norway, Morocco, California and England.
That said, it's fun spotting the director cameos, and there are some good jokes here. Plus, the exam and surgery scenes are classic. My dad's been using the "Doctor. Doctor. Doctor." routine since for decades. It's not "Trading Places", but it's also no "Into the Night".
The humour ranges from slapstick shtick to comically witty exchanges (Chase's often quick replies) and deadpan acts, as the equipped story is a comedy of errors led by two hapless individuals which would end up saving the day in an unlikely manner. It's a fairly amusing and offbeat concept, as it holds surprises, its fast momentum never lets it sit too long on the one gag. There such a variety to the comic silliness and it goes out on a bang. The crystal clear European locations are exquisitely used in shots, and adds considerably well to the large-scale adventure directed by verve from Landis.
Landis would team up again with Chevy Chase a year later to bring us the even better '¡Three Amigos!' that would also star Steve Martin and Martin Short.
On a need to know basis good dashing, systematic fun.
This isn't the type of film that an audience goes into expecting something that would make Ian Fleming jealous. Dealing with a nuclear bomb hidden in the woods by the Russians (played here with a Boris and Natasaha mentality), the agency that Dan Ackroyd and Chevy Chase work for send them in as decoys so the real spies can find the rocket. But fate intervenes, and these two numbskull's might just be the ones to save the world. But who will save the 100 minutes you waste shaking your head at this idiotic mess? I wasn't expecting a screenplay of Orson Welles proportions, but when you are making a comedy for adults, the jokes need to rise above the mentality of a fifth grader. Even in the popular slob comedies of the early 1980's ("Caddyshack", "Stripes", etc.), there was heart and innocence in the humor, but here it is simple stupidity, and an insult to the audience to even try and buy what the filmmakers are trying to sell. I like the two actors, and fondly remember Donna Dixon from "Bosom Buddies", but in the past, they have been given much better material. Sadly, this makes "The Three Stooges in Outer Space" look like a genius in comparison.
As for the story, well, it feels like old familiar territory and the film itself looks and feels as though it was made on a purse string budget. Some of the dialogue is kind of weak by the supporting cast but the main two leads certainly have the best lines in the film. So all in all, this film ain't that bad but it ain't that good either. 4/10.
It's all the early SNL actors who went into movies during this time contributes to the golden age of comedic movies. Chevy Chase was on top of his game in the '80's, so was Dan Aykroyd. There's just something about movies like this movie, Stripes, Caddyshack, Trading Places and so on that just stand the test of time so well. I would much rather be in an era of comedic films like this then the garbage that came out in the early 2000's with all the dumb Farrelly Brothers and American Pie films. How many times can you say a different variation on a dick or fart joke before you realize that's all that those hacks have in their repertoire.
"Spies Like Us" was met with mixed to negative reviews at the time of its 1985 release, though it has since been viewed more favorably and has developed something of a cult following in the years since. I cannot imagine this getting a negative review, though I understand why it might be mixed. This is obviously not the funniest comedy from either Aykroyd or Chase.
I suppose the popularity has grown because there is something about 80s comedies that can't be replicated. Some would say a second-rate 80s comedy is better than many since then. Even if Aykroyd and Chase starred in something now (2016), it would come nowhere near the possibility it had then.