I Spy Yet Another Parody

It's hard to see much prosperity ahead for "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies." A low-wattage parody of an already over-parodied genre, the James Bond pictures (themselves parodies), it seems to have no reason to exist. Better parodies (example: "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery") are out there in the dozens, and the form itself is so exhausted that the last Bond film had to reinvent itself as an origin story to succeed and launch Daniel Craig as 007.

To be fair, "OSS 117" boasts a couple of attributes: One is that star Jean Dujardin, as Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, a.k.a. OSS 117, France's top secret agent, bears an almost stunning resemblance to the Sean Connery of "Dr. No" vintage. In fact, the movie made me want to see "Dr. No" instead. But as Dujardin plays him, OSS 117 is clueless, clumsy and klutzy. That leads to an occasional daring scene, such as his arrival at a Cairo mosque in a bathrobe, screaming at the worshipful to shut up as he's trying to get some sleep. It won't earn plaudits from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, but it's kind of funny. But more frequently it produces simple goof stuff: He always beats up a guy who gets the code greeting wrong. Ho, ho.

The second attribute is Berenice Bejo as his secretary, Larmina (rather secretary to his cover job, which is, and this is supposed to be funny, chicken farmer), and she is, as they say, extremely easy on the eyes. But the comedy is strained to the point of lameness, most of it exaggerated clumsiness, stupidity or inappropriateness. I enjoyed the '50s wardrobe, and in a well-tailored suit with one eyebrow aloft as he swizzles a martini, Dujardin looks extremely cutting-edge 1955, almost as if he'd stepped out of the pages of a 53-year-old Esquire. The plot was nonsense; the jazz, cool; Cairo, phony; and that's about all.

"OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" PG-13, 99 minutes, Contains mild violence and cleavage. In French with subtitles.


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