If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Ugh. After the way that last Austin Powers movie wore out its welcome is it any wonder that the mention of a new spy movie spoof makes me cringe? Especially since Leslie Neilsen in 'Spy Hard' and the Steve Carrell 'Get Smart' did nothing to help the genre. BUT if you told me about a lost spy movie from the 60s with the french version of James Bond travelling to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro to square off against Nazis, and Mexican wrestlers hippies!... Well, there's a really good chance you could grab my attention again. In fact, you throw in a healthy heaping of those femme fatales and bikini babes from the Matt Helm movies and I dare say you'll have my undivided attention.
'OSS 117: Lost in Rio' kicks it off right with a Dean Martin song and a Swiss ski chalet party where agent
Hubert returns to SDECE headquarters (Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage) where he picks up a new mission that takes him to the Bossa Nova Brazil of the 1960’s. Teaming up with a sexy Mossad agent, he has to capture a Nazi blackmailer with an embarrassingly long list of World War II French collaborators. Throughout the film he's attacked at various times by relatives of Mr. Lee's gunmen, encounters a foul-mouthed American Felix Leiter-type CIA agent , the Nazi Professor Von Zimmel and his luchadore enforcers, and even Von Zimmel's son who is now a hippie.
'OSS 117: Lost in Rio' is a sequel to France's wildly popular 2006 film, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, a comedic-spun continuation of the OSS 117 series of serious spy films from the 1950s and 1960s, They're based on a series of novels by Jean Bruce which follow the adventures of a French secret agent, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath aka OSS 117. Oddly enough, the 'OSS 117' books started publishing four years before James Bond and the character of was original French-American ala Louisana who worked for the American organizations of OSS and CIA.
I'd never heard of any of this character before seeing the trailer for 'Lost in Rio' in the previews
When you watch even the first Austin Powers movie you can see that it's really just an hour of "Let's make fun of what we can rememeber about the 60s" material followed by an uncomfortable 30 minutes of sight gags swiped from Benny Hill and pop culture references. 'OSS 117: Lost in Rio' has a genuine love for this style of movies, to the point that it's so convincing I couldn't stop questioning if it wasn't indeed made in the 60s. I re-checked its
Wipidedia page several times during. It perfectly apes the early James Bond movies right down to the cinematography, art direction, costumes of the 60s and even the driving scenes are all filmed with obvious rear projection. The film also parodies Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and North by Northwest with de La Bath's clothing inspired by Harper and the set furniture inspired by Dean Martin's Matt Helm films.
It doesn't hurt that it stars what must be the perfect leading man. With his lean, muscular frame, slicked back hair and one eyebrow permanently coked in a smirk, French comedian Jean Dujardin can't help but remind you of a From Russia With Love-era Sean Connery. A man of action who's able to remain suave through any amount of danger or craziness...even when he's the butt of the joke. The more time we spend with Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath the more it becomes apparent how much he's an unconscious racist and chauvanist full of the classic Western arrogance
of the times (no doubt a glimpse at a side of what the real James Bond would've been like). He's also not as respected by his his peers as we're first led to believe. But no bungler like Maxwell Smart or buffoon like Austin Powers. For all of what he brings to the table physically, Dujardin manages to channel Peter Sellers' Inspector Clousseau to create a character who's believable oblivious to all of his own shortcomings, which adds another layer to the comedy.
As much I mihght refer to 'OSS 117: Lost in Rio' as a "parody" it's as much a biting satire with a scathing wit. I still haven't seen OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, but I'm excited to have a film to hunt for and my fingers crossed that they'll make another installment.
Oss 117: Lost in Rio DVD can be purchased here.