Total Recall: Smashing Spy Spoofs

With Johnny English Reborn hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema's most memorable purveyors of satirical spycraft.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

76%

French slapstick is famously known to have a hard time appealing abroad, with exception made to spy joints OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio, which riff on a range of targets, including James Bond and the OSS 117 series itself. Its origin lies in a series of French spy espionage books, and subsequent films based on those books. Resurrecting OSS 177 in 2006, director Michel Hazanavicius and comedian Juan Dujardin dress the character up in a satirical tux. "[The] movie travels familiar ground, with a nod to Airplane, Top Secret and that whole genre," Roger Ebert writes, "Even compared to them, it pushes things just a little -- not too far, but toward the loony."

Mode: HLS Link

Our Man Flint

82%

Given the absurdities inherent in the James Bond movies, it shouldn't come as a surprise that 007 parodies were everywhere in the mid-1960s. Our Man Flint succeeded better than most thanks to a suave performance from James Coburn as shagadelic super spy Derek Flint. The silliest aspects of the Bond films are skewered here: we've got the acronym-happy organizations, remarkably versatile gadgets (including a cigar lighter with 83 different uses), and armies of bikinied babes. In other words, Our Man Flint was doing the Austin Powers thing while Sean Connery was still playing Bond. "Coburn is plainly enjoying himself so much, and the trimmings are so stylish, that it's impossible not to enjoy," wrote Kim Newman of Empire Magazine.

Mode: HLS Link

Spies Like Us

35%

John Landis (Animal House, Coming to America) must have had a lot of fun back in the 1970s and 1980s, crafting legendary comedies with some of the best talent around. In 1985, the director paired up with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase for this send-up of Cold War era international espionage, in which the two SNL vets play bumbling, wannabe agents who are dropped into Soviet territory as decoys but end up completing the mission themselves. Full of one-liners, visual gags, and explosions, Spies Like Us was a little too silly to be a true actioner but, in the eyes of most critics, also a little too thin on effective humor to make for a fully entertaining comedy. Still, the film is not without its fans, like Moviehole's Clint Morris, who concedes that Spies Like Us "meddles uneasily between comedy and action-adventure, but Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd keep you watching right way through."

Mode: HLS Link

Top Secret!

76%

How silly can you get? Well, when you're in expert spoofmeisters Zucker-Abraham-Zucker's world, the answer is, pretty silly. Top Secret! successfully lampoons both espionage flicks and Elvis Presley musicals with staggering levity -- it's pretty amazing how many stereotypes, pop culture references, and goofy sight gags are packed into this movie without it feeling too busy. Val Kilmer is Nick Rivers, a vapid American singer who rocks the Soviet bloc on a goodwill tour, but soon finds himself joining forces with a ragtag bunch of French Resistance fighters with names like Avant Garde and Chocolate Mousse. Few movies walk the divide between smart and stupid as deftly as Top Secret!; as Variety wrote, the movie "shares the same wonderful wacky attitude that allows just about any kind of gag to come flowing in and out of the picture at the strangest times."

Mode: HLS Link

Undercover Brother

77%

The words "starring Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, and Denise Richards" aren't generally a sign that you're about to see a classic film, but this fast-paced spy spoof is loads better than anything titled Undercover Brother has any right to be. Satirizing James Bond and blaxploitation in one fell, impeccably Afroed swoop, it offers the best of both worlds: enough wacky humor to include Richards as a character named "White She-Devil," and enough thought-provoking subtext to inspire Film Threat's Marcus D. Russell to argue, "a strong case could be made to use this as the initial tool in our school systems to begin serious discussions about race and class."

Mode: HLS Link


Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for Johnny English Reborn.

Finally, here's the trailer for one of the most action-packed spy spoofs of all time -- For Your Height Only:

Written by Ryan Fujitani, Jeff Giles, Luke Goodsell, Tim Ryan, and Alex Vo.

Comments

What's Hot On RT

New on DVD & Blu-Ray
New on DVD & Blu-Ray

Neighbors, The Rover, and More

Boardwalk Empire
Boardwalk Empire

"What Jesus Said" episode reviews

Everybody Hurts
Everybody Hurts

New Men, Women & Children Trailer

<em>John Wick</em>
John Wick

Trailer: Keanu's Got a Short Fuse!

Find us on:                     
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile