Thursday, September 16, 2021

Reserved Seating Presents Hundos: SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER

 by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino

The review duo who holds up the line at butcher shops.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: Our Hundos series - celebrating the 100th highest grossing film of a given year - continues with the 1993 romantic comedy So I Married an Axe Murderer directed by Thomas Schlamme, who is more known these days for his collaborations with Aaron Sorkin on The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The film stars Mike Myers as Charlie MacKenzie, a Scottish-American bachelor in San Francisco who is pervasively commitment phobic in his love life. Charlie vents about his failed relationships at a local coffee house during slam poetry sessions, which is presumably his job because otherwise (as evidenced in the film) he is unemployed. One day, Charlie meets Harriet (Nancy Travis), who runs a local butcher shop, and becomes immediately smitten. After a montage of the two running the shop one busy afternoon (complete with bouts of the fuckarounds that must have been awkward for her customers), Charlie and Harriet begin dating and eventually marry. All is well until suspicions arise that Harriet is the notorious Mrs. X, a woman accused of killing all of her former husbands and getting away with it. The film co-stars Myers (in a dual role) playing his own father - a proto Shrek/Fat Bastard, Brenda Fricker as his frisky mom, Anthony LaPaglia as Charlie’s Serpico-wannabe cop best friend, and Amanda Plummer as Nancy Travis’ weirdo sister.

So I Married an Axe Murderer was a cable favorite of mine back in 1994. I thought it was hilarious and that Mike Myers was a comedy god. I’ve since cooled on that sentiment so I didn’t know what to expect revisiting this film after what has to be at least 20 years. To my surprise, I still love So I Married an Axe Murderer (despite a few gripes) and think it’s my favorite Mike Myers movie, topping even the original Wayne’s World. Myers himself is hit or miss since he’s vamping and hamming it up so much (this feels like a vanity project even though Myers didn’t direct and only stars and polished a draft of the screenplay), but I was impressed by how much space the film allows for other people to be funny, especially Brenda Fricker, Alan Arkin, and Anthony LaPaglia, who I think steals the movie and is often the straight man to the funniest moments.

What did you think of the movie? Were you as immediately upset as I was by the opening where a cappuccino cup is washed in soap, rinsed, dried with a wet towel and then immediately put back out into circulation without being run through a dishwasher? If this was at home okay, but not at a coffee house.
Rob: They never would have allowed that at CineMug. Like you, I was a fan of So I Married an Axe Murderer back in those years when it played on Comedy Central a few times a week. It’s one of the foundational “Mike Myers Does Impressions” texts (Everyone’s uncle loves imitating the “Go cry on your giant pillow!” bit), and it’s a decent enough representation of an early ‘90s romantic comedy. On this viewing, however, I was really noticing the directorial limitations. There’s a general flatness to its construction, a disconnection of pace and tone that gives me the sense that Schlamme took it a scene at a time and didn’t have a cohesive plan for the whole. It’s nothing against his skillset (He essentially invented The West Wing Walk-and-Talk), but it’s perhaps telling that this is his last of two total feature-length efforts. It’s also likely a product of the multiple screenwriters and their various rewrites; one imagines the wry story of a beat poet who feared commitment was spun together with more and more of Myers’ slapstick as development went on. It’s not a problem unique to this movie, of course, but it is a problem.

You mentioned preferring this to Wayne’s World, and while I can’t quite meet you there, I do find this to be an interesting part of the larger Mike Myers conversation. It’s his only (mostly) straight man role, right? You can see why. He’s an inherently schticky comedian, something he really owns in Wayne’s World and Austin Powers (and takes too far in stuff like The Love Guru), and is clearly sharpening here. As a result of that incongruity between role and persona, though, his character ends up in an odd place between dramatic and comedic that, while not totally de-railing So I Married an Axe Murderer, muddles him to the point where I can’t entirely sympathize with him. Like, stop with the beat poetry, man. I have a bit of a Myers allergy, I think. How can someone so Canadian also be so smug?
Adam: He almost has a reverse vanity, where he’s trying to get you to not like him. I’m fascinated by his opening bit, where he’s immediately the worst -- loudly denouncing his large cappuccino for cool guy points. I’m almost disarmed when I laugh at Myers as a comedian later in the movie because more often I’m getting douche chills from his presentation. He’s like the Bruce Willis of comedy, where everything is stupid and he’s the arbiter of what’s not stupid. Getting back to the opening moment, why is Anthony LaPaglia dressed in outlandish pimp gear other than for Myers to be like “Why are you wearing that?” It’s such a weird two-hander; like a star reinforcing that he’s on top of the power dynamic.

Rob: I kept thinking Myers wanted someone to bounce off of when he’s doing his Scottish dad bits, and LaPaglia’s role just expanded from there. I’m glad it did. He’s the real hero.

Adam: But then Myers (and the filmmakers) are also respectful and give a lot of breathing room to the other actors to be funny like LaPaglia and Fricker and the cameo-o-rama of Phil Hartman, Michael Richards, Steven Wright, and Charles Grodin. It’s weird. Myers reminds me a lot of Dan Aykroyd, where his brain is operated by a mad chemist and sometimes we see a peek of brilliance but are befuddled the rest of the time.

Rob: What did you think of Nancy Travis in this one? She’s someone who’s always working but with whom I’ve never really connected. And how about Anthony LaPaglia’s running gag with Alan Arkin where LaPaglia is trying to get him to be a more conventional movie police captain? That was fun.
Adam: I’m generally a fan of Nancy Travis but don’t know why other than she looks like a nice person. I feel like we never got to see her utilizing all of her talent as an actor since she so often played wives and girlfriends. I’m always happy to see her in a movie, though, and I think she helps sell the romance in So I Married an Axe Murderer. I feel bad that she takes Myers back after he does a self-indulgent poetry session outside her window. She deserves better than that. The Alan Arkin bit is really funny and was even funnier in the ‘90s before he became a caricature of himself in the past 15 years. I’m happy he had a successful run after Little Miss Sunshine, but nowadays every time I see Arkin in a new movie I’m like “For fucks sake” and look at the ceiling.

Have you seen the trailer for So I Married an Axe Murderer? It’s bananas. Myers is doing like a William Castle/Crypt Keeper thing.

Rob: I just watched it. My Myers allergy is...intensifying. On that note, our Pixar series returns next week with Cars 2. Until next time…

These seats are reserved.

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