Nielsen Ratings: Spy Hard (1996) Review

Nielsen Ratings Spy Hard Review

Of the post-“Naked Gun” Leslie Nielsen-led spoofs which followed the closing of the trilogy, “Spy Hard” is probably the best of the bunch. It’s broadly a fourth “Naked Gun” by another name, with Agent Dick Steele being substituted for Frank Drebin and the whole thing given a pseudo-James Bond makeover.

When the evil General Rancor – long thought dead – resurfaces and threatens the world, the Director turns to his best: Dick Steele, Agent WD-40 (Nielsen). Steele is sent to thwart Rancor’s satellite launch and rescue fellow agent Barbara Doll with the help of KGB operative Agent 3.14 (Nicolette Sheridan).

It’s not unfair to day that “Spy Hard” peaks early with a wonderful Bond movie pastiche performed by ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic who also appears against the Maurice Binder-style silhouettes. Instead of Nielsen’s usual collaborators Zucker/ Abrahams/ Zucker and Proft, “Spy Hard” is written by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (who would go on to write “Date Movie”, “Disaster Movie” and “Vampires Suck”) and directed by Jason Friedberg’s father Rick – who had recently directed Nielsen’s “Bad Golf Made Easier”.

“Spy Hard” leans to heavily on overly silly slapstick, spoofs of at-the-time recent – and not so recent – movies (some of which you’ll have forgotten about until you see them parodied) and a seemingly endless parade of surprise celebrity cameos. Robert Culp, Mr T, Hulk Hogan, Ray Charles, Fabio and Pat Morita – amongst others – join in the fun and if nothing else, it’s nice to see Talisa Soto back in the spy movie business even if only briefly. Nielsen keeps it ticking over, of course, and sells the silliness with his trademark twinkly sincerity and there’s some nostalgic fun in seeing him face off against the legendary Andy Griffith as General Rancor. The parts of the movie with Barry Bostwick – who feels like he’s wandered in from an entirely different movie – don’t work quite so well despite the efforts of Charles Durning and Robert Guillaume.

The loose spy shenanigans are used as a framework to parody “In The Line Of Fire”, “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”, “Speed” (and, possibly, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”), “Pulp Fiction”, “Sister Act”, “True Lies”, “Home Alone” and “Jurassic Park”, suggesting the writers had ideas for sketches and decided to stitch them together into a movie script. Perhaps its greatest achievement is that in retrospect it doesn’t feel like a milquetoast rip-off of “Austin Powers”, a movie which would, in reality, come out a year later, perhaps proving that 1997 and not 1996 was a better year to “Spy Hard”.

Fun, but largely forgettable, “Spy Hard” has just about enough quality gags to justify itself but it’s also a reminder that parodies work best when they keep their focus tight.

Leslie Nielsen Rating 05

Nielsen Rating 5/10

Nielsen Ratings