Movie Report: Spies Like Us (1985)

Book coverI bought this DVD last weekend, and it was the first of the new films I watched.

I got the paperback book when I was in middle school or early high school, and it was years before I actually saw the movie. And probably decades passed since I watched it again (this time). Or maybe this was the third time I’d seen it. Over the years.

My oldest has become a Chevy Chase fan (we watched National Lampoon’s Vacation and Fletch Forever last year), so it was an easy sell for him. Even though he said, “Who is that other guy?” Dan Ackroyd, from Saturday Night Live (forty-some years ago), Ghostbusters (almost forty years ago), Dragnet! (almost forty years ago)…. (The next day, my beautiful wife would point out that he was also Elwood Blues.)

As you might recall, gentle reader, if you’re an old man, that this film centers on two nincompoops, one a Lothario smooth-talker from the State Department (Chase) and the other a tech whiz civilian employee of the Department of Defense (Ackroyd), who are chosen to become operatives–well, they’re chosen to be expendable decoys for the real operatives whose mission is at risk because of a leak that has gotten other operatives killed. So we get training montages with Bernie Casey as the military commander. Then, they’re air-dropped in Pakistan to a remote area, where they avoid being killed by Pashtuns by pretending to be doctors, where they meet Donna Dixon and a bunch of real doctors; when an operation fails to save the kin of the clan chieftain (before they begin to operate), they have to escape, and they do–to the chagrin of their controllers. But they bumble their way across the Soviet border to continue being a decoy, until they begin helping the lone survivor of the actual agent team to–launch a nuclear missile, it turns out, in a live-fire test of an anti-missile system.

So they have to save the day.

It’s chock full of 80s tropes, paced like a late 20th century comedy with some sexual humor but it’s not terribly crass, and it has a good heart although it pokes fun at the idea of missile defense (making sure we understand that Reagan was president). It has Chevy Chase playing a Chevy Chase character and Dan Ackroyd playing a Dan Ackroyd character, so it might not stand out that much from their respective ouevres. But it was Vanessa Angel’s first film, so it is notable in that regard.

She’s had a steady career of small parts in a variety of films and television programs. I’ve seen her in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! and Kingpin, but she had fairly small roles, so she would not have leapt out.

Apparently, Angel is her real name and not just a description.

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