OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, a Deadpan Bond Parody

Closer in spirit to the deadpan stylings of early Zucker brothers than the more obvious slap-shtick of the Austin Powers franchise, director and co-writer Michel Hazanavicius’s OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is a frequently uproarious send-up of Jean Bruce’s long-running series of spy novels — a Gallic precursor to James Bond — and the seven straight-faced feature films they inspired between 1956 and 1970. Here, tongues are planted firmly in cheeks as comedian Jean Dujardin steps into the shoes of the preening, chauvinistic Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (a/k/a OSS 117), who finds himself dispatched to Egypt with a simple mission: "Make the Middle East safe." On the ground in Cairo, he soon shows his cultural sensitivity by making politically incorrect comments about the Suez Canal and telling an early-morning muezzin to shut up. All the while, the film makes joyous nonsense out of bad matte paintings, obvious miniature effects, unsubtle sexual innuendo, and a lead actor who plays the role to clueless, arched-eyebrow perfection. And whatever you do, don’t forget the secret code words: “How is your veal stew?”

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