Day One hundred and seventy-six: "Spy Hard" from Medium Rarities
In the mid 1990s, Al got a chance to not only write and record the theme song to a major motion picture but to direct its opening credit sequence as well. For an ambitious, visually-oriented aspiring filmmaker and music video director like Al, that was an offer he couldn’t refuse. Unfortunately the film in question was the little-loved 1996 Leslie Nielsen vehicle Spy Hard, a movie primarily known these days for Al’s involvement.
The super spy spoof afforded Al an opportunity to do something new and challenging: create a lush, symphonic cinematic theme sexy, glamorous and dangerous enough for an extended cinematic riff on the manly legacy of James Bond yet goofy enough for a “Weird Al” Yankovic theme song for a late-period Leslie Nielsen gag-fest.
Al and his band corralled the costly services of an 85 piece orchestra to help him pay tongue-in-cheek tribute to a man of mystery and intrigue who always has “places to go and people to kill.”
James Bond themes are not sung so much as they are belted out by singers with serious pipes like Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, legends with swagger and attitude and unabashed sensuality that oozes all over their instantly iconic odes to Ian Fleming’s legendary secret agent. This challenges Al vocally even before an ending where he holds a note for twenty seconds, causing his head to explode from the pressure, Scanners-style, in the opening credits.
Al has seldom sounded this deep or this sultry before. The movie he’s shilling for might be a risky dink little trifle from the unfortunate post-Zucker Brothers stage of the white-haired funnyman’s career but its theme sounds downright epic. As with the later espionage-themed “Party in the CIA”, Al’s take on the spy game is perversely and hilariously health insurance-focussed. On “Party in the CIA”, an overly enthusiastic secret agent chooses the Central Intelligence Agency over its domestic colleagues because they have “a better dental plan than the FBI.” On “Spy Hard” Al concedes that “Facing death everyday/is a tough job for any man” but at least, “his hours are flexible/and he's got a great dental plan.”
Why is a good dental plan important? Three words: Lisa needs braces.
As it nears the end “Spy Hard” becomes delightfully sentient. It becomes an opening credit song about being a song that accompanies the opening credits when Al sings helpfully, “By the way if you walked in late/allow me to reiterate/The name of this movie is Spy Hard/They call it Spy Hard.”
Later Al, ever the sticker for accuracy, returns to this theme when he croons over the end credits, "The name of this movie was Spy Hard / They called it Spy Hard / You just saw Spy Hard / It's the end of Spy Hard!"
That ensured that Spy Hard’s best jokes all come when Leslie Nielsen is offscreen and Al is in control. That’s only fitting since this early Aaron Seltzer/Jason Friedberg (Date Movie, Epic Movie, Scary Movie) collaboration, directed by Jason’ father Rick, finds the very best in musical parody and pastiche working with some of the very worst in cinematic spoofery.
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