OSS117: Lost In Rio

Out of ideas already?
Michel Hazanavicius
Jean Dujardin, Louise Monot, Rudiger Vogler, Alex Lutz
The Setup: 
Second installment of the French James Bond parody.

I read a thing about upcoming movies which predicted that The Artist will make a mega-sensation of Jean Dujardin, which reminded me that he already is a bit of a sensation in my household for his amazing performance in OSS117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, in which he parodied Sean Connery in the Bond films in a way that perfectly ribbed the conventions of Connery's performances, while simultaneously coming off as genuinely super-sexy and smart. Put it this way: for me, the funniest moment in that film was only Dujardin strolling across a hotel lobby, post hook-up, in an absolutely pitch-perfect parody of Connery's suave, bemused, post-coital satisfaction with life. The rest of the movie was quite amusing as well, the kind of thing where nothing jumps out as "the funny part," but after a while you find yourself giggling and you just don't stop.

By the time I had watched the first film, I already knew there was a sequel, and just left it out there until I wanted something guaranteed to be pretty good. It was, but where I was hoping that the filmmakers would find new targets of parody and make fun of new aspects of the Bond films, but unfortunately they end up merely repeating many of the elements of the previous film, ending up with the feeling that you could watch this one or the first, but probably not both. This also ends up killing their franchise in its infancy.

We open in China in 1967. OSS117 is with a bunch of lovely ladies, when a few guys show up with machine guns. We now have a parody of the convention that the bad guys pepper the room with machine gun spray but still cannot hit our hero, who dispatches them with single shots from his pistol. He acts as though everything is fine because the main woman survived, while the bodies of all the others litter the floor. Then we have our credits, which ape the hypnotic split-screen graphic effects of The Thomas Crown Affair, and for a while you hope that this film will be parodying a slightly later period of history than the first.

OSS117 is sent to Rio to find a former Nazi war criminal, Von Zimmel. As he arrives at the airport we see a number of peripheral figures spying on him, which is an exact retread of a recurring joke from the first. Again the convention of men laughing too long at a joke, another convention imported wholesale from the first film, only there it had a bit more resonance, as it often alluded to the underlying homoeroticism of the Bond films. He is soon kidnapped by members of Mossad, the Israeli spy service, who also want to bring Von Zimmel to justice. Again, numerous jokes about OSS177's racism and cultural insensitivity. For example, he says that Jews could never infiltrate Nazi headquarters, because their noses would betray them. He is paired with the comely Dolores, Mossad agent, who he initially assumes must be a secretary. When she says she wants vengeance against the Nazis, he asks "Why?" When she responds "Genocide," he dismissively replies "Oh, that."

The movie continues, and is amusing, although most of the material is just a new version of jokes explored in the first. The slightly later setting of the late sixties isn't explored in great detail, except in the recurring use of Thomas Crown-like divided screens. In one of the funnier bits, OSS117 trips on acid and engaging in a beachfront orgy with hippies. We have split screens showing OSS117, and in another a bearded hippie squeezing some butt cheeks, and then in a humorous reveal we see that the butt in question belongs of OSS117. Later, OSS117 is sleeping, when a sudden vision of the little bearded hippie making squeezing motions jolts him from his sleep, and makes him feel a little funny inside. This is the only time I laughed out loud during the course of this film. There is also amusement to be had when Dolores tells the arrogant agent "You views on Jews, Blacks and women are best kept to yourself," and he responds "You're the one who's upset."

Still, nothing new to see here. It's the sequel as "more of the same," which makes it somewhat interchangeable with the first film, as in you could watch one or the other and get largely the same effect. I found the first film slightly more amusing and coherent, but that may just be that I saw it first. The extras on the disc of the original film tell of the work they went though to replicate an early sixties film, including finding the same film stock and lenses used at the time, and I could see that attention to detail providing an amusing air verisimilitude that I didn't sense as such a concern here.

Still, an amusing, smart parody with the blessing of Jean Dujardin, who is ideal for the part. Nevertheless, for the newbie, I would recommend starting with the first. This one adds nothing new, and while it's amusing, it just isn't the revelation the first was. It's a shame, because this was a promising series with the advantage of having found the ideal actor, but its lack of inspiration seems to ensure that the series has worn out all its material on only the second go-round. It was fun while it lasted.

Should you watch it: 

You can, but I think you'd get more out of watching the first.

THE ARTIST: Perhaps you have heard of this homage to silent films made with the same creative team?
OSS117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is the first in this series, and considerably better than this one.