Music Box Films // 2009 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ben Saylor (Retired) // August 31st, 2010
Dolorès Kuleshov, explaining hippies: They want to make love, not
Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath: But both are possible. I've always done both. So far, no complaints!
Jean Bruce's OSS 117 spy novels predate Ian Fleming's James Bond by several years. Serious-minded films of the former were made beginning in the late 1950s. In 2006, the character was resurrected for the decidedly not serious-minded OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. Now, the clueless, offensive OSS 117 -- aka Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath -- returns for more period hijinks in OSS 117: Lost in Rio.
The year is 1967. French secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (Jean Dujardin) -- code name OSS 117 -- is dispatched to Rio to buy a microfilm listing French collaborators with the Nazis during World War II. Teamed up with beautiful Mossad agent Dolorès Koulechov (Louise Monot), the thoroughly incompetent Hubert must brave spies, Nazis and even a crocodile in order to accomplish his mission and escape Rio with his life, all the while inadvertently offending anyone he can.
The current OSS 117 films derive their humor largely from visual gags/slapstick as well as Hubert's unknowingly bigoted and sexist worldview. This served first installment Cairo, Nest of Spies well, and if this blend isn't quite as effective for its sequel, Lost in Rio is nonetheless an amusing romp, thanks largely to another stellar comic performance from Jean Dujardin.
Lost in Rio has an amusing opening, where a split-screen credits sequence depicts Hubert cavorting with a bevy of beauties in Gstaad, Switzerland. Red Chinese gunsels ambush the group. A gunfight ensues in which Hubert fires his pistol far more times than he should realistically be able to without reloading, and without bothering to take any sort of cover from the men who outnumber him. Of course, he escapes unscathed, as does the Countess he was dancing with, although the gunmen and all the other women in the room are dead. ("It almost got bad," Hubert remarks.)
The series continues to get considerable mileage out of Hubert's idiocy, such as when he visits the German embassy to obtain information about Nazis hiding out in Rio:
Hubert: Would it be possible, if it exists, to consult a list of former
Nazis residing in Brazil? A club, an association? A Nazi guild?
Embassy employee: Germany is a democracy. In no way does the Embassy know the whereabouts of Nazis.
Hubert: Among fellow Germans?
Embassy employee: All Germans are not Nazis.
Hubert: I've heard that theory.
When rescued from an ambush by a pair of Mossad agents, Hubert clearly is not aware of the organization's existence, and he quickly offends his new partner Dolorès by remarking how attractive a secretary he's been given. Hubert spends much of the film spouting offensive remarks about Jews, women and Asians. He even takes a few potshots at hippies, although he grudgingly admits, "Those hippies are actually nice. Once you get past their hygiene."
The physical comedy of Lost in Rio doesn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor, but there are still some inspired bits. A scene where unseen assailants fire at Hubert without ever hitting him is a highlight; another is an absurdly slow chase through a hospital, where an ailing Hubert limps after his similarly encumbered quarry. The film climaxes with a chase that leads to Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue in a clear nod to Hitchcock. One shouldn't discount the small things, either, like the way Hubert holds his gun, or a bizarre, German-accented rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema" by a black-uniformed Nazi.
Neither Cairo, Nest of Spies or its sequel would work as well as they do without Jean Dujardin. Not only is the actor a great physical type for the role (his profile is Connery-esque), but also he excels at conveying his character's obliviousness to how much his behavior offends others. Not only is the character of Hubert an attack on bigotry in general (and specifically on attitudes during the less-enlightened time of the film), but co-writer/director Michel Hazanavicius and co-writer Jean-François Halin also take shots at their own country, such as when Dolorès asks, during an argument about what constitutes a dictatorship, "What do you call a country with a military leader, secret police, one TV station and censorship?" Hubert's response: "I call that France, Miss. Not any France: De Gaulle's France."
A talented supporting cast backs Dujardin. Monot makes for an excellent foil to Hubert, playing her "straight woman" role with assertiveness and panache. Ken Samuels is a riot as a crude CIA agent who enjoys insulting an unwitting Hubert in English, and last but not least, veteran actor Rüdiger Vogler (Alice in the Cities) looks like he's having a blast playing chief baddie Professor von Zimmel.
Also worth mentioning is Lost in Rio's period detail. From the colorful costumes to the bouncy score, the film is steeped in a stereotypical 1960s look and feel. The filmmakers are blatant in their use of rear projection, and the action sequences are appropriately corny and unrealistic.
Music Box Films' DVD of OSS 117: Lost in Rio looks and sounds very good; the colors pop, and the exuberant score comes through nicely. For extras, you get a trailer and a 24-minute making of featurette. If you can get past the typo-ridden subtitles, this is a decent watch, with interviews with cast and crew and lots of behind the scenes footage.
Unfortunately, the plot of Lost in Rio sometimes drags, especially when compared to its predecessor. Also, the filmmakers seem to have ratcheted up the cultural/ethnic insensitivity of Hubert at the expense of the physical humor, the latter of which was in greater supply in Cairo, Nest of Spies. Although some bits (such as those outlined in the Evidence) stand out, this movie just isn't as funny as the first.
Although OSS 117: Lost in Rio is a bit of a let down compared to its predecessor, it's nonetheless a well-made and frequently funny spy spoof and cultural satire, and is well worth checking out.
Review content copyright © 2010 Ben Saylor; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated