CIA (and bad grammar), Beware!
Did you know you could get a double agent to confess merely by spending
the day correcting his grammar? Neither did I, until I saw this movie.
Douglas McGrath (who also co-wrote and co-directed) is Allen Quimp
(yup, rhymes with "wimp"), a nerdy high-school grammar - and sometimes
driver\'s ed - teacher in 1950\'s America. His over-achieving family
think he\'s a loser and don\'t understand his all-consuming dream to rid
the world of bad grammar. So, one day he tells his father-in-law a
little white lie: he\'s really an agent with the CIA. Pretty soon the
whole community knows, including a visiting Russian ballet star (Ryan
Phillipe), who wants to defect- to Quimp! One thing leads to another,
and the CIA ends up really recruiting Quimp and sending him to Cuba,
where he roots out the double agent, becomes involved in several plots
to assassinate (or at least humiliate) Castro, and becomes a DJ,
playing songs that the CIA take as a coded request to invade the Bay of
Never quite "sidesplittingly funny," as the back of the box boasts, but
mildly amusing and watchable, with the "mongoose in my shorts" bit
being probably the funniest scene in the movie; coming in at a close
second is Alan Cumming\'s rendition of "Diamonds Are a Boy\'s Best
Friend" (don\'t ask!).
Worth watching mainly for the performances. McGrath is likable as the
clueless Quimp; Sigourney Weaver is perfect as Quimp\'s over-bearing and
social-climbing wife. Alan Cumming doesn\'t seem to have much to do in
his scenes, but makes the most of them, amusingly bringing to life his
"I-can\'t-believe-this-guy-was-a-Cuban-dictator" character. John
Turturro\'s character is easily the funniest - an agent who\'s gone a bit
around-the-bend and become a raving lunatic bent on assassinating Fidel
Castro- played by Anthony LaPaglia, who wins the "most unlikely
casting" prize- which is not to say it wasn\'t a good choice! Amusing
and likable, but never hilarious. This one goes somewhere in the grey
area between C+ and B-. (Or two and a quarter stars out of four.).
Quirky farce about misadventures of a CIA man...
Set in the 1960s, this little-known independent film was in limited
release so that the majority of movie fans have probably never heard of
it. DOUGLAS McGRATH is a CIA man who recounts tales of his
misadventures to a couple of senators. The cast is sprinkled with some
famous names: SIGOURNEY WEAVER, RYAN PHILLIPPE and JOHN TURTURRO among
them, with a brief glimpse of WOODY ALLEN.
All of the plot involves the attempt at overthrowing Fidel Castro
during the period of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. All of
the cast gets into the farcical nature of their roles, but none better
than ALAN CUMMING as Gen. Batista, wackily funny in a role that has him
ending up playing piano in a Florida nightclub singing "Diamonds Are A
Boy's Best Friend." He makes the most of lines such as: "My great
passion was the piano. Mamacita told me I must have something to fall
back on, so I became a dictator." Sigourney Weaver has her share of
memorable punch lines too and plays the role of McGrath's social
climbing wife without ever becoming a caricature. She's obviously more
skillful at farce than Ryan Phillippe as Petrov, the Russian dancer,
who assumes a heavy accent but doesn't seem to know he's in a comedy.
ANTHONY LaPAGLIA is effective as Fidel Castro and, in a smaller role,
TUCK MILLIGAN does a nice job of impersonating President Kennedy.
It's clever stuff and there's plenty to chuckle at, but I never found
it downright hilarious as some others have commented.
While I found John Turturro's performance a bit excessive as the
maniacal anti-Castro activist, he seems to be relishing the chance at a
comical role that requires a lot of energy to play. Only trouble is it
seems a bit forced at times.
Summing up: Wacky light-weight farce is funny enough in places, but
there's nothing memorable here. And what's with WOODY ALLEN in an
uncredited supporting role? As usual, he plays his nerdy self..