Thursday, March 15, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009) ***½

UR, 101 min.
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writers: Michel Hazanavicius, Jean-François Halin, Jean Bruce (characters)
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Louise Monot, Rüdiger Vogler, Alex Lutz, Reem Kharici, Pierre Bellemare, Ken Samuels

Whatever problems they had with the first “OSS 117”, they solved them with the second. This movie sees Best Actor Oscar winner Jean Dujardin return to the role of the French secret service agent that may have inspired James Bond. He’s a cross between the good looks of Bond, the stupidity of Inspector Clouseau, and the retro spoofery of Austin Powers.

This time around OSS 117 is sent to Rio on a mission that is so obviously a trap OSS 117’s superiors might be co-conspirators. I won’t even bother with the details of the plot, because they hardly matter. What does matter is that in this sophomore spoof, Oscar winning director Michel Hazanavicius understands that the success of this franchise relies solely on the characterization of the main character by Dujardin. He’s a misogynistic womanizer, racist, anti-Semitic nincompoop and Dujardin plays the role to a ‘T’.

Hazanavicius really deserves some style points for his direction as well. Proving well before his Oscar win that he had the chops to successfully homage a classic film style, this movie could easily be mistaken for a vintage spy flick from the late 60s. His use of multiple pictures on one screen combined with another Oscar-winner for “The Artist”, Ludvig Bource’s swinging score; he effectively recreates the spy genre for the flower power age. The production design is impeccable and the costumes are perfectly fitting of the time period.

Still it is Dujardin’s nitwit spy that makes this trip to the past worth the ride. It is a lot harder for subtitles to make me laugh than hearing the dialogue in my own language, but this one had me cracking up just like it was in my native tongue. And while the first film was really at about a ‘PG-13’ level, this one would definitely venture into ‘R’ rated territory, if it were rated. 

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