Undercover Blues Review
The impact of the David Shayler affair on the public was not that the secrecy of the intelligence services had been breached, which, following the Spycatcher affair, appeared to be full of old men grumbling about their pension, but that, having grown up believing that spies were suave, worldly seducers of beautiful women and dispatchers of sneering villains, the reality was closer to a big guy in a football shirt who looked as though he'd be happier raiding the chocolate shelves of a corner shop than quaffing champagne in Monte Carlo. What next, spies with kids?
Well, yes actually as Undercover Blues asks the question, "What would happen when a couple of super-spies become parents and retire? Would they be happy doing nothing in suburbia?" Starring as Jeff and Jane Blue, Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner have just had a daughter and rather than continue with their work in the FBI and CIA, in which they've had a chequered past due to their unorthodox methods, they retire and head for New Orleans to take a well-earned rest. Before long, however, trouble finds them, beginning with a mugging and, a day or two later, moving to prevent the sale of illegal explosives by a Czech spy. Try fitting all of that in around nappy rash, whooping cough and leaky breasts.
Despite not being a premium release by MGM - including a theatrical trailer as the only extra on the disc is a giveaway - this isn't a bad film at all. Whilst you should be careful of anyone who would describe Undercover Blues as hilarious, there's enough humour in the film to make it an enjoyable ninety minutes or so. In particular, the running joke about Muerte taking his revenge on Jeff following his failed attempt at a mugging is good value and not even the joke about Jeff's continuing and deliberate mispronunciation of his name as Morty wears thin despite it being called in every five or minutes. Why it works is not that the joke is particularly funny in itself but that the writer, Ian Abrams, have the sense to employ it to get most effect, used best in a shoot out in a restaurant.
By far the best moments in the film belong to Larry Miller, a US stand up whose 'fives stages of drinking' is his most famous routine. Miller has been cast as the incompetent cop whose personality grates both on his partner and the Blues and whether it's the writing or his adopting of a bizarre, slightly effeminate southern accent, he's quite the best thing in the film. In particular, Miller has the role that allows him to be completely out of place in his role as a cop yet he's in keeping with New Orleans.
Whilst Quaid does a good job as Jeff Blue, despite trading on the good ol' boy persona he was to drain dry over his short career, Kathleen Turner, although playing a mum, does look years away from her performance in Body Heat. Whilst her voice is as remarkable and, I'm not ashamed to admit, attractive as ever, the wardrobe that was selected for this film makes Turner look very old indeed and instead of any attempt at getting her character in shape, the cuts between Turner stepping back to dropkick Muerte across a restaurant and the actual kick as delivered by another actress could only be any more obvious if Turner's leg was replaced by a hairy-thigh'd stunt man.
Undercover Blues has been anamorphically transferred in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and whilst the picture is fine, there's little about it worth noting. The print used for the transfer is fairly clean but never particularly sharp and
Unsurprisingly, Undercover Blues has been made available on DVD with its original 2.0 surround soundtrack, which is fine and preferable to any surround sound remix as it's unlikely any such thing would have added value to the DVD.
Undercover Blues, given the release of this film as part of MGM's budget range, has only the following bonus feature:
Original Theatrical Trailer (1m51s, 1.85:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This is little more than a collection of clips from the film, setting the story into Jeff and Jane Blue's life story.
In a way, I quite liked Undercover Blues but I can't ever see me watching this again on DVD as, whilst funny, there's not enough to come back to - I doubt the jokes would take a second or third hearing, Quaid does outstay his welcome and, good as he is, Larry Miller's better at stand up than he is here.
The effect, therefore, is of Undercover Blues being a fairly good comedy but one that has been made on the cheap and without any real confidence in the script. Whilst it's the sort of film that will wash up in television schedules in late-afternoon slots for years to come, it's hard to see anyone ever thinking that this is a DVD they must own.