In gleefully ripping on both classic spy movies and T&A-obsessed Frenchmen, OSS 117: Lost in Rio reasserts the primary definition of “burlesque”: broad parody, rather than broads in pasties. Seemingly derivative of both James Bond and his groovy flipside, Austin Powers, the titular agent (played by Jean Dujardin) most closely resembles himself: The film is based on a popular series of books by Jean Bruce, the first of which predates Bond by four years. It is 1967, and 117 is sent to Rio to retrieve a microfilm containing the names of French SS collaborators. Director Michel Hazanavicius (also behind 2006’s OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies) commits to the festivities with gusto, if a creeping lack of imagination. The look of the reference-heavy film, mostly shot on location in Brazil, is impeccably cheesy, but the Nazi humor and awkward sexist and racist eruptions smell a little stale. And yet, given time, the film develops an energy all its own. Hazanavicius knows his sight gags (an extremely low-speed chase involving two hospital patients in butt-baring gowns is one highlight) and silly set pieces (a North by Northwest spoof involving Christ the Redeemer is another). But it is Dujardin who wins the day—and eventually, of course, the gimlet-eyed girl—as the perfect, preening fool.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 4, 2010