UNDERCOVER BLUES: DVD
Husband and wife spy team Jeff (Dennis Quaid) and Jane Blue (Kathleen Turner) are taking a break from the cloak and dagger business while they bring up their 11 month old baby. But while on vacation in New Orleans, they are surprised by a visit from their boss desperate for their help in preventing the evil Paulina Novacek (Fiona Shaw) from selling black market explosives to terrorists. Oblivious to who the Blues really are is Muerte (Stanley Tucci), a knife-wielding local mugger whose male pride is mortally wounded when Jeff beats him up with a baby stroller and who then makes a nuisance of himself by making repeated bids for revenge.
Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Once upon a time William Powell and Myrna Loy were the most celebrated screen team in the world. They made their fame and fortune as wise-cracking husband and wife detectives Nick and Nora Charles in the 1934 film version of Dashiell Hammett's classic novel, The Thin Man and its five sequels to 1944. But this style of sleek and sophisticated comedy was unfashionable by the fifties and Herbert Ross's facile attempt to revive the genre falls flat on its inflated farce.
Turner and Quaid might look good together, kissing, cuddling and canoodling for the cameras but unlike their silky smooth predecessors they never seem to belong together. There's no subtlety in Turner's satin dressing-gown opening to the thighs or in Quaid's bulging pectorals and boxer shorts and none of The Thin Man's class. Surely the film would have been funnier if a Steve Martin or a Madeleine Khan were there, sending up the sex angle (in black socks, singlet and fishnet stockings) and giving us all a break from that infernal smooching with a fiery tiff or two. There would have been no baby, of course, but bubba is only in the film as a rather tasteless gimmick...and she is often placed in appalling peril, with a knife-wielding nutcase, thugs and terrorists all bent on obliterating the Blues in the most expedient way possible. Posing as anything between an Electrolux salesman to a brain surgeon, the undercover Blue wears a grin the size of Luna Park and mugs incessantly but Mrs Blue seems disinterested, pledging her undying devotion ("I love you more and more and more every day") with all the passion of a potato.
One suspects, with her name above Quaid's in the title (which originally seemed much cleverer as Cloak And Diaper) that Turner only did it for the billing. And who can blame her, since she could hardly be impressed with some of the indignities she is subjected to - furious mud wrestling with her Czech nemesis, or creating a "diversion" by chucking a five minute epileptic fit while on an outing at the zoo.
Ultimately, all that's wrong with the film is encapsulated in the script which might have been the work of Arnold Schwarzenegger's joke writers. A typical eye-roller comes when Blue is warned by one of Paulina's goons not to make any sudden moves. "Why not," he retorts "is there a bee on me?" Not impressed? Well, a few of these howlers are even worse. Popping up like a kung-fuing Cato in a Pink Panther movie is Stanley Tucci as a mugger with a menacing switchblade who insists that his name is Muerte - or "Death," in Spanish. The running gag is that Blue keeps on calling him "Morty," which drives Muerte bananas, but after three or four repeats the joke becomes as tiresome as Tucci's rantings. Baby Jane gets her big moment when she walks for the first time, which is cute, but on reflection, it's the only scene that works.
This bum-numbingly silly confection was Ross's penultimate film. He enjoyed his greatest commercial success with the energetic modern musical Footloose in 1984 but had established a reputation for proficiency working with producer Ray Stark, writer Neil Simon and with wife and colleague Nora Kaye on such hits as Steel Magnolias, The Goodbye Girl, California Suite and The Turning Point. It's always a pity when a bad banana buggers the bunch.
Published December 2, 2004
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UNDERCOVER BLUES: DVD (M 15+)
CAST: Dennis Quaid, Kathleen Turner, Stanley Tucci
DIRECTOR: Herbert Ross
SCRIPT: Ian Abrams
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16 x 9 widescreen
SPECIAL FEATURES: Original trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: MGM Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: November 17, 2004