Our story goes . . . one particularly uneventful Saturday evening, on a particularly starry night, in the early weeks of 1981, two boys, having never met, watch the same episode of BBC’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Hours later, they both dream the same dream of being Arthur Dent (and totally making it with Trillian) when Zaphod Beeblebrox initiates the Heart of Gold’s Infinite Improbability Drive. When they awoke, their fears that the dream was real are found untrue. Their lives have not been altered and life goes on the same. Until one day, quite recently actually, each still unknowing the other exists, they arrive home and discover that their easy chairs have been turned into boxes of pristine 1980’s video cassettes and their bags of Tostitos’ and jars of dip, fully functioning VCRs and remotes. They take to Twitter and it is here that the Eric from The IPC and David from That Moment In find each other and learn of their random, connected fates. A note in the box reads:
“You must watch every 80s movie in this box. For each movie, a summary would be nice. Nothing crazy. Maybe something short. Your call. Then you must review the film! To do so, choose and describe these five moments: 1) The Best Moment 2) The stupidest Moment 3) That Special 80s Sexy Moment 4) The Now’s A Good Time to Take A Pee Break Moment and finally 5) The Most Cheesiest Silly Awesome Eighties Moment. Good luck. We are watching you.”
FIRST OUT OF THE BOX: Spies Like Us (1985)
Part 1 by THAT MOMENT IN:
Inserting tape into VCR. Dimming lights. Pressing play. Fixing tracking . . .
Spies Like Us really hasn’t aged well, though the two leads are naturally funny. It tries really hard to be a satire of the cold war doomsday genre but doesn’t commit like it should, going for sight gags and silliness rather than biting commentary. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and wishing it was of a similar mold.
Quick Summary: Two dumb spies play golf with Bob Hope and enjoy the end is near freebie sex before saving the world.
Favorite Moment: Towards the end of the movie, after our bumbling spies have successfully made their way to the secret missile launch site and tricked their way into accessing the mobile launcher’s computer panel disguised as extraterrestrials with tranq guns (you read the right), they are ordered to input commands that are rather unexpected: It fires the friggin’ missile! They duck and cover and realize that because of what they have done, the retaliatory strikes will bring nuclear armageddon and destroy life as they know it. Huge bummer. But a good chance to party naked in a tent! Meanwhile, deep in a bunker in the United States, the two military leaders in charge of the operation have initiated the launch as a test of their new missile defense system, which actually fails. (Kudos to the two government guys having tea and cookies while a nuclear warhead is launched! Hilarious.) But no worries, they are kinda happy about the miss. A contingency plan is in place. It means it’s time to reset the human race and end the proliferation of warheads, all in the name protecting the American way of life! Naturally. The late Steve Forrest as General Sline is perfectly cast as the leader with a narrow field of view. And for a a few minutes, it feels like Kubrick is behind the camera.
Stupidest Moment: Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd riding a camel. When the animal decides to stop, it sits and the the two spies dismount with Fitz-Hume (Chase) attempting to speak “camel” at it. Cringe-worthy. Fast forwarding.
That Special 80s Sexy Moment: While undercover in Pakistan, the spies are mistaken for doctors (doctor, doctor, doctor . . . you know the bit.) One of these doctors is a ravishing young blond (played by Donna Dixon) who Fitz-Hume is immediately attracted to. When she comes to his tent asking for help in performing a rather tricky surgery, he fumbles for excuses and eventually claims he’s lost the feeling in his left hand, demonstrating so by um, copping a feel because who wouldn’t want to cop a feel of Donna Dixon? It’s standard fare for 80s Chevy Chase, as he klutzes his way about the tent and hams it up as only he can. But damn, lucky guy.
The Now’s The Time To Take A Pee Break Moment: The boys, in one of the funnier bits, take the Foreign Service Board Exams and end up being spotted as potential decoys for a top secret mission, which requires a couple of bumbling idiots to keep people distracted while the real team goes undercover. What follows is the standard training montage where they are shown to be unquestionably under-qualified as soldiers and spies as the great Bernie Casey runs them through a series of silly physical activities to test their endurance and skills. It’s about seven minutes of our hero being subjected to a whole array of they’d-be-horribly-mained-or-one-hundred-percent-dead-if-this-was-real-life scenarios, including Ninja attacks, G-force thresholds, flame resistance and a radical vertical impact simulation that totally isn’t a simulation. (Hint: They crash a small plane, nose first into the ground). While we certainly don’t need to be told, all it serves to accomplish is remind audiences that this is a cartoon world we are visiting. It’s not particularly inventive, relying mostly on quick sight gags that only become groan-inducing as sight gags is it’s only purpose. Perfect time for a pee break.
The Most Cheesiest Silly Awesome Eighties Moment: The film is rife with eighties-isms, and choosing only one is nye impossible, especially with classics like the two Russian spies dressed as yuppies in pastel. But it has to go to the ending where the two superpowers decide the fate of the world’s nuclear stockpile with a game of Trivial Pursuit. Just saying that makes me want to put on my parachute pants, listen to Flock of Seagulls and rewatch every episode of Miami Vice. The theme song is in your head now isn’t it?
Overall, Spies Like Us is a fun ride but kind of silly, that starts out great and fizzles in the end. Most of that comes from it’s indecision on what it wants to be, wavering from political to comical to goofy to satire with none really being overwhelmingly successful. Still, as a light romp with some easy laughs, Aykroyd and Chase were two of the best. Neither push themselves, but we don’t want them to either. It’s basically Clark Griswold and Dr. Raymond Stanz in a road film but that’s not bad.
For Part 2 of this amazing thing – by yours truly – just click the following image from Spies Like Us and head over to THAT MOMENT IN: