Road to Nowhere: Spies Like Us


Austin Millbarge: They do seem to be headed in that general direction. Maybe your dick’s not so dumb.

Emmett Fitz-Hume: It got me through high school.

At the time of John Belushi‘s death in March 1982, Dan Aykroyd was putting the finishing touches to a couple of scripts that would be vehicles for their comedy double act.  The first was Ghostbusters (in which Belushi was slated to play Peter Venkman) and the other was a homage to the old Bing Crosby Bob Hope “Road To…” movies that he had co-written with SCTV’s Dave Thomas, called Spies Like Us. With Belushi’s death the project was shelved and Aykroyd went on to make his own way in the world with such fantastic projects as Trading Places and the aforementioned Ghostbusters (but don’t mention Dr. Detroit).


Spies Like Us sat on a shelf until 1985 when, doubtlessly fuelled by Aykroyd’s hot streak and global appeal off of the back of Ghostbusters, Warner Bros. picked up the project. Thomas and Aykroyd’s script was fine tuned by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell (Happy Days, Parenthood) and put under the nose of John Landis – himself still recovering from the horrific Twilight Zone Movie incident (and with a trial due to begin in 1986). It was originally intended as a vehicle for Aykroyd and Joe Piscopo – who was about to take the world by storm after leaving SNL (sadly for Joe this didn’t happen), however for unknown reasons Piscopo left the project and Chevy Chase came in.

While funny in a few places, the whole film feels far too long. Aykroyd had a reputation for turning in massive scripts and while with Ghostbusters (which had a infamous huge first draft) he was pressured to cut it in half, you get the feeling with Spies Like Us he was let off the lead. There are still some classic scenes, however. The exam for one is a perfect example of Chevy Chase doing what he does best, quick-fire delivery of gags and some excellent physical comedy.

Aykroyd plays half straight man, half techno babble geek. A role that is almost an extension of Ray Stantz from Ghostbusters, but with the much, much better name of Austin Millbarge.

Spies Like Us is the story of two totally incompetent government applicants, Emmett Fitzhume (Chase) and Austin Millbarge (Aykroyd) who are chosen from a CIA recruitment program to become spies, however all is not what it seems. They are parachuted into Pakistan and eventually end up in Afghanistan, chased by the Russians, where they learn they are being used as decoys to draw out the Sovet defenses. Two real spies are sent in to Hijack a soviet Missile launcher and launch it to test the new US orbital defence system.

The devious government man are played with wonderful slimy relish by Bruce Davison and William Prince. They scheme and manipulate their way through the film and are a joy to watch. The film is littered with wonderful cameos, from Sam Raimi and the Coen brothers to Bob Hope, Michael Apted, Terry Gilliam, Derek Meddings, Frank Oz and Ray Harryhausen. Most of them come in one memorable scene in which the word “doctor” is said over and over again. It’s just a shame that such a great cast is ultimately ornate window dressing for a long shop full of not much to sell.

Overall it is no where near as funny as it should have been, but it does have some very funny moments and is a nice time capsule of perhaps one of the last classic SNL member ensemble movies.

Originally posted 2014-04-25 14:55:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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