Undercover Blues

(Herbert Ross, USA, 1993)


Anyone who has swallowed the received wisdom that Michael Lehmann's Hudson Hawk (1991) is one of the worst films ever made should immediately embark on a close comparison of that unfairly maligned movie with the abysmal Undercover Blues.

It aims for a quite similar mix of elements: old-fashioned romantic comedy, burlesque action sequences, a dash of political intrigue. But, where Lehmann's film has pace, wit and a consistent style, this one is flat and unappealing.

Film comedy has often used incongruity – finding a situation where the banalities of everyday life are suddenly juxtaposed with the spectacular events of high fiction, as in Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). Often, movies achieve such a lightning juxtaposition through a mixing of disparate genres.

The hook of Undercover Blues is that it places a happily married couple (Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid), on vacation from espionage work to enjoy raising their new baby, amidst a never-ending stream of violent crooks and terrorists.

So director Herbert Ross (Footloose, 1984) has a prime opportunity to milk laughs from the incongruous mix of diaper changing and martial arts, baby strollers and bombs. Yet the film simply repeats this premise ad infinitum, meanwhile struggling in vain to make Turner and Quaid appear like a fast talking, glamorous couple from a classic Hollywood romantic comedy such as His Girl Friday (1940).

Undercover Blues is a terribly miscalculated film.

© Adrian Martin May 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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