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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Landis
Cast:
Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Forrest , Donna Dixon, Bruce Davison, Bernie Casey, William Prince, Tom Hatten
Writing Credits:
Dave Thomas (story), Dan Aykroyd (and story), Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Tagline:
With spies like these who needs enemies?

Synopsis:
Chevy Chase teams with fellow SNL alum Dan Aykroyd to play government desk jockeys who fake their way into becoming U.S. spies. The stars share a gleeful chemistry as agents whose limitations are limitless, and director John Landis gooses along the antics of Spies Like Us, a funfest that plays like a Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road movie.

Box Office:
Budget
$22 million.
Opening Weekend
$8.614 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$60.083 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 7/6/2010

Bonus:
• Double Feature with Funny Farm


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Spies Like Us: Comedy Double Feature [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 16, 2010)

When Spies Like Us reached screens in late 1985, it seemed primed to be a comedy smash. After all, stars Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd had scored recent hits with flicks like Fletch, National Lampoonís Vacation, Ghostbusters and Trading Places, so a reunion of the old SNL cast members appeared like a sure thing at the box office. Add to that the presence of Trading Places and National Lampoonís Animal House director John Landis and the filmís financial prospects looked great.

However, Spies didnít become the huge hit most expected. Oh, its $60 million gross was perfectly fine for the time; indeed, it was more than some of those other "hits" I mentioned. I recall Spies as a box office disappointment, though. The movie got so much hype that $60 million didnít really cut it.

And I didnít think the movie itself wasnít anything special either. However, I donít believe Iíve seen Spies since the mid-80s, so I figured this Blu-ray offered a good chance to re-examine the flick.

A spy satellite reveals the presence of Soviet missiles on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Authorities plan a mission to deal with this, but they give it a twist: in addition to the two men theyíll send to infiltrate the area, they dispatch another squad as decoys.

Unwitting, unknowing decoys. They scoop up State Department information officer Emmett Fitz-Hume (Chase) and Pentagon codebreaker Austin Millbarge (Aykroyd) to go through training and then accomplish an undefined mission while the real agents do the more important work. Fitz-Hume and Millbarge blunder from one circumstance to another Ė but find themselves in the position to save the day.

Essentially an update on the old Hope/Crosby Road movies, Spies offers a less coherent plot than the one I describe. In truth, all of the specifics of the spy mission form a kind of MacGuffin. The movie barely bothers to explain them, and theyíre utterly unimportant. Heck, the fact that Millbarge and Fitz-Hume are supposed to be spies doesnít even really matter; they could be stuck in their situation for a variety of reasons and the movie would work just as well.

Director Landis has never shown much skill with narrative Ė did Trading Places make much more sense? Ė so I donít mind the incoherence of the plot. Unfortunately, Landis canít do anything to bring out the comedy, either. Iím tempted to say the 1983 tragedy during the Twilight Zone shoot impaired Landisís ability to make good comedies, but in truth, Iím not sure he ever had much skill as a director. When his movies worked, they did so due to the extreme talents of their actors.

And when they didnít, the failures were directly connected to the directorís flaws. That becomes a factor with Spies, as the actors just canít overcome the filmís inherent messiness. Iím not sure how the Chase/Aykroyd pairing came into existence, but itís not an inspired match. Sure, it makes sense to hook up the SNL "original cast" alumni, especially since both had done pretty well at multiplexes.

However, they just donít mesh with each other. Aykroyd seems to fit best with a more dominant personality like Bill Murray or John Belushi; heís not especially effective as a lead comic actor. I think he and Chase are too similar in too many ways for their match to work. No, they donít walk the same side of the street exactly, but their characters donít contrast especially well, and they fail to feel like a natural combination.

This means the laughs are few and far between during Spies. At no point does it become an unpleasant film to watch; even though they donít demonstrate much chemistry together, the stars have enough talent to make the movie moderately entertaining across its 102 minutes. The flick simply never becomes anything more than that, however, as it limps along and fails to deliver the desired wittiness.

Footnote: Spies abounds with cameos. Youíll find scads of other directors Ė including then-unknowns such as Sam Raimi and Joel Coen Ė along with a few notables and one comedy legend.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C/ Bonus NA

Spies Like Us appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. An inconsistent presentation, this one ranged from very attractive to messy.

Though it did improve as the film progressed, and the flickís second half worked better than its first. Early on, Spies tended to look flat and bland. Grain was heavier than expected, usually during interior shots; exteriors like spy training appeared smoother, but then weíd get scenes in Pakistan that suffered from dull visuals. Sharpness veered from fuzzy to reasonably crisp, while colors could be pretty vibrant or they could be muddy; the movieís first half really lacked much consistency.

On the other hand, the second half worked much better, and I had far fewer complaints about it. Definition tightened up, and colors looked more dynamic. Grain also decreased. Some iffy shots still popped up during the second half of the flick, but they were the exception, whereas they tended to be the rule in the first half.

No matter which part of the movie you watched, source flaws remained consistent. Occasional specks cropped up, but nothing much interfered with the presentation. Blacks tended to appear acceptably dark Ė though not tremendously rich Ė while shadows showed decent delineation. The highs and lows on display here evened out to a "C+" presentation.

I also found inconsistencies with the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of Spies. On the positive side, its soundfield seemed fairly expansive for a mix from 1985. Like the visuals, the soundscape improved as the movie progressed. During the first act, I thought delineation and spread were lackluster, but matters better opened up after that, and material broadened across th channels in a satisfying way.

Most of this audio focused on the front channels, where elements like vehicles and weapon fire moved from side to side in a moderately convincing manner. The surrounds didnít have a ton to do, but they added information at times, especially during the occasional action sequence. Those scenes brought out reasonable involvement from the back speakers and contributed to the filmís punch.

Unfortunately, audio quality became a weak link, largely due to a lot of noise. Spies often suffered from a hissy, scratchy sound. This pervaded much of the film and became a consistent distraction.

Other aspects of the mix werenít great, either. Speech remained intelligible but tended to sound somewhat stiff and reedy. Music showed acceptable range but never really came across as vibrant, and effects suffered from some distortion and roughness. None of this seemed awful for audio from 1985, but the negatives were prominent enough to make this a "C" soundtrack.

Technically, no extras come with this disc. However, Spies arrives as a double-feature release; 1988ís Funny Farm also appears on the same platter. You could consider one movie or the other to be a bonus feature, I guess. This is either a totally barebones release or one that comes with an added film. Because itís an open question, I chose not to give the Blu-ray a grade for supplements.

Spies Like Us didnít impress me 25 years ago, and the Cold War comedy hasnít aged well. The movie pairs two SNL notables who then fail to connect with each other. This leads to a watchable comedy but not one that does much to amuse or entertain. As for the Blu-ray, both picture and audio are inconsistent but acceptable, and it comes with a second Chevy Chase movie as a bonus. This is a decent value for fans, but I remain unexcited about the movie.

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