SpymateReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/30/06 14:31:58
One look at the DVD cover for “Spymate” and you know exactly what you’re going to get. The artwork reveals a chimp in a suit and sunglasses, holding a banana for a pistol, standing next to some preteen actress who’s tossing us a look as if to say, “That’s my chimp!” It’s enough to make any fan of cinema cry just a little - and any fan of Hilariously Bad Movies feel like he’s just hit the mother lode.The premise is simple: a specially trained, highly intelligent chimpanzee named Minkey once served as a field partner to secret agent Mike Muggins (Chris Potter) until they both retired ten years ago. Mike’s now an insurance salesman raising a genius inventor daughter (Emma Roberts); Minkey is the star of a traveling circus. But when a dastardly villain (Richard Kind) kidnaps the daughter, hauls her off to Japan, and forces her to work on a super drill that will, I dunno, blow up the island or something, it’s up to Mike and Minkey to return to action and save the day.
I should probably spend more time discussing how the duo gets help from Minkey’s circus pals, including the strong man, the fat lady, the ace acrobat, and the world’s fastest man, except: a) despite spending an incredible amount of time setting up these characters, the movie finds nothing at all for them to do, and by the final act, they spend most of their time just standing around in an office; and b) it’s just to depressing to talk about.
What’s most surprising here is that despite the set-up, almost all of the movie is played straight. After some slapsticky beginnings that suggest things aren’t to be taken seriously, the rest of the story is almost entirely devoid of (attempted) comedy. For some odd reason, the filmmakers actually figured they’d be better off making a sincere action-adventure flick - a fact which only increases the what-the-frick? factor. The sight of a chimp playing superspy with only a sprinkling of comic relief throughout may very well make your brain melt just a little. (Of course, the comedy we do get is enough to sap your very soul. There’s a running gag about Debra Jo Rupp, playing Mike’s assistant, being too out of shape to fit into her old slinky black leather Emma Peel costume; I regret to inform you that this is one of the movie’s better jokes.)
Oh, and then there’s the scene in which the albino henchman (because c’mon, aren’t all albinos henchmen these days?), after getting the tar kicked out of him by the chimp, hallucinates that Minkey is singing and dancing a reggae tune. And just when you think the filmmakers have milked the joke for all they can get, they milk it some more. And some more, and some more, until you’re punching your own eyes, trying to end the pain.
I haven’t even gotten to the jaw-droppers to come. (just what is up with Musetta Vander’s fake French-ish accent?) Perhaps it’s best to let the scenes speak for themselves:
- The opening scene finds our heroes attacking a camp in the desert; we are to assume this is a terrorist camp because they are all Arabs. And, of course, all Arabs are expert swordsmen.
- The entire Jamaican population is best represented by the only one with a speaking part: a money-hungry fool who gets all bugged-eyed at the sight of cash.
- Upon arriving in Japan, Minkey bows to his local greeters. The businessmen bow back. Minkey returns the bow. The businessmen bow back again. Repeat this for a good minute and a half.
- This bit is repeated late in the film, between Minkey and some ninjas.
- And it’s repeated again, this time between Minkey and Pat Morita (!).
- Two Japanese tourists, who only appear in one quick shot and have nothing to do with the rest of the film, notice a volcano is about to erupt. The husband quickly stops to capture the moment with his camera, which he carried around his neck for just such a moment.
In other words, “Spymate” seems to hinge most of its comic material around racist stereotypes that would be considered outdated fifteen years ago. Wholesome family fun!The whole mess comes to us from director/co-producer/co-writer Robert Vince, the same Robert Vince who previously unleashed the monkey-plays-hockey junker “MVP: Most Valuable Primate,” the monkey-rides-a-skateboard junker “MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate,” and, rounding out the trilogy, the monkey-goes-snowboarding junker “MXP: Most Extreme Primate.” The guy sure seems to have a chimp jones going; he’s created a whole cottage industry on direct-to-video movies in which chimps dress up like people. But hey, let’s not ignore his valuable work on such cute-dog flicks as “The Duke,” “Chestnut: Hero of Central Park,” and several of the “Air Bud” sequels. I suppose if you’re a one-note filmmaker, you might as well ride that one note, no matter how terribly it’s played, for as long as the checks keep coming in. It’s better than actually having to try, I suppose.
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