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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews OSS 117: Lost in Rio

Last spring I wrote about OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies, a French parody of the Sean Connery era James Bond films.  I really liked the movie — I thought it was a spot-on Bond parody and very, very silly — and so I was very excited to watch the 2009 sequel: Rio Ne Repond Plus.  (The English subtitle is Lost in Rio.)

Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, French secret service agent code-named OSS 117, is assigned a new case: to track down and pay-off an ex-Nazi, Professor von Zimmel,  who has a list of French collaborators from WWII.  Hubert is quickly intercepted by a group of Mossad agents, who want von Zimmel captured and brought back to Israel for trial.  So Hubert reluctantly teams up with Israeli colonel Dolores Kulechov.  They decide to locate von Zimmel by using his son, but quickly find themselves beset by double-agents, masked wrestler/hit-men, groovy hippies, and a lot of Nazis.

Once again, Jean Dujardin plays Hubert.  The over-the-top Francophonic Hubert is arrogant, racist, and misogynistic.  But in an endearing way!  Well, fairly endearing.  Lost in Rio pushes the humor of the series even further outside the bounds of political correctness than the last installment did.  For the most part, the boundary-pushing humor works, because Mr. Dujardin imbues Hubert with such happy cluelessness that he’s hard to dislike.  And the film is pretty clear that it is Hubert himself who is the buffoon, and the subject of our laughter.

The key to this is for the film to ensure that Hubert, rather than any of the people he mocks or puts down, is the primary idiot in every scene.  He can laugh about how useless his female partner is, but since we can clearly see her being extraordinarily brave and heroic, we know that the joke is on Hubert.  The only major mis-step of the film, for me, was the running subplot about the various Chinese hit-men chasing after Hubert all being hard to understand.  Hubert’s jokes about their accents are a little less funny because the actors portraying the hit-men DO all speak in a sort of silly accent.  The film wants us to laugh a little at the Chinese hit-men, not just at Hubert himself, and I think that’s a mistake.

But over-all, the film is extremely funny.  There’s a lot of pleasure to be had from the continued tweaking of Bond-era styles, from Hubert’s wardrobe — which includes a tiny blue Goldfinger-esque terry cloth robe — to the insanely over-the-top use of split-screens in certain sequences.  Some of the humor is very low-brow physical, while some is clever word-play.  (There’s an Au Revoir, Les Enfants joke that really tickled my funny bone.)

Louise Monot is beautiful and quite capable as the Israeli spy Dolores.  (Though what kind of Israeli is named Mulva — I mean, Dolores???)  She’s a great foil for the ridiculous Hubert, and she more than holds her own against his condescension.  Rudiger Vogler gets to chew a lot of scenery in the last act of the film as the Nazi von Zimmel, and Alex Lutz plays good hippie as his son Heinrich.  But the film is really Jean Dujardin’s show as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, and he is fantastic.  He’s really able to channel the Sean Connery looks and swagger, amplified to the thousandth degree.

Although only made three years after OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies, this film takes place 12 years later.  (Cairo: Nest of Spies was set in 1955, and this film takes place in 1967.)  It’s a curious choice.  The late ’60s setting allows the film to have a lot of fun with Hubert’s 1950’s sensibilities being played off against the 1960s hippie youth culture, but it seems a little early in this film series to play the Bond-character-is-hopelessly-out-of-date comedy card.  I wonder whether this leaves much room for the series to go from here.  Hopefully director Michel Hazanavicius and his collaborators will be able to come up with something!  I’d really like to be able to watch many, many more exploits of OSS:117!

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