Directed by John Landis
Written by Dan Aykroyd, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel
Starring Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd
Tagline: With spies like these, who needs enemies?
Trivia: Several directors make cameo appearances including Terry Gilliam, Sam Raimi, Joel Coen, amd Martin Brest.
Spies Like Us is a late Cold War comedy from 1985 that’s a pleasant enough way to pass 90 minutes. Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd star as clueless government workers assigned to a top secret mission behind the Iron Curtain. Film fans will enjoy the cameos from a collage of directors.
The gags generally fall flat. For example, Chase and Aykroyd are required to take a foreign service exam and they make pathetic attempts to cheat, with Frank Oz playing the proctor.
Once on their mission they arrive at a refugee hospital somewhere in Afghanistan and pretend they are doctors. In a laborious sequence they must perform surgery, but are saved when the patient dies? But not before Bob Hope makes a cameo. It all feels like a tedious SNL skit.
Eventually the “agents” end up in the Soviet Union at an ICBM complex and more hi-jinks ensue. The final 15 minutes are Landis’s awkward attempts to emulate Dr. Strangelove and the James Bond movies.
In their final TV interview John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd spoke of a film they were writing about defense contractors. Louis Malle was set to direct. I suspect the project morphed into Spies Like Us in the aftermath of Belushi’s demise.
Landis had made a string of classic irreverent comedies like The Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, and Trading Places, but Spies Like Us feels a bit long in the tooth.
If you would rather not revisit Spies Like Us, at least check out the video featuring Paul McCartney’s goofy theme song.