tek's rating: ½

Condorman (PG)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 1981. I certainly didn't see it in a theater, nor on VHS. (Well, I'm certain of both those facts, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm right.) I remember seeing it on TV at some point in my childhood, and I would have assumed it must have been on "The Wonderful World of Disney." But I can't find it on any list of episodes of that show, so I must have seen it somewhere else. Maybe it aired randomly at some point, or maybe as part of some other anthology, I don't know. At any rate, it's something I've always wanted to see again, and I finally did in 2017, when I got it on DVD. It is not a well-regarded movie, critically, by any means. And I can't really blame critics for disliking it. I can't really blame anyone for disliking it. It's incredibly redonkulous and cheesy. But it's also something of a minor cult classic. I'm happy to be able to say I'm not the only one who remembers it fondly from their youth (nor the only one who thinks it holds up fairly well, watching it as an adult). It's basically a spoof of spy movies. It has lots of really cool spy tech and vehicles or whatever, stuff that's utterly unrealistic. But, you know... how is that different from any "serious" spy movie? The ridiculous stuff in this movie, in my opinion, is really no more ridiculous than anything in any James Bond movie. Still, it is a comedy, and a fairly goofy one. Which is what makes it so much fun.

Anyway, there's this comic book writer named Woody Wilkins (Michael Crawford), who we learn early in the movie doesn't want to include anything in his comic books unless he first proves (at least to himself) that it can work in real life. Which is why, at the start of the movie, he attempts to fly off the Eiffel tower while wearing some sort of mechanical wings he had designed for his character, Condorman. (What's never made sense to me is that he had apparently been writing the Condorman comic for quite some time before trying this stunt, so... why was it okay, in his mind, to write those comics before he knew if the wings would work? Ostensibly, upon rewatching the film, it sounded to me like it had something to do with Condorman going on a mission in Paris, when he usually operates in New York City. But that still doesn't make sense. The wings either work or they don't. The city shouldn't matter. And I'm pretty sure this was the first time he was trying them out anywhere. And in fact, later in the film I get the impression that he's never even had the opportunity to actually test any of the gadgets or vehicles or weapons he uses in his comic book.)

But I digress. He has a friend named Harry (James Hampton, best known to me as the dad from Teen Wolf), who is a file clerk for the CIA. Woody thinks of Harry as a spy, even though Harry insists he's not. But one day, Harry's boss, Russ, assigns him to take on more responsibility while Russ is away doing something else. One of these duties includes getting a civilian to deliver some papers to another civilian in Istanbul, who will pass the papers on to the KGB. Or something. (I wasn't really clear on that whole mission, I just know that both people were supposed to be civilians, for some reason.) Anyway, Harry gets Woody to take on that mission, which was supposed to be simple. But of course Woody acts like some kind of trenchcoat-wearing movie spy. And the person he delivers the papers to is a beautiful Russian woman named Natalia, with whom he is instantly smitten. Of course she was supposed to be a civilian, but she turns out to work for the KGB, and as I may have said, I don't know whether that's the organization the papers were meant for or not. It was probably explained before the mission, but I just don't remember or care. Anyway, Woody tells her he's called Condorman. And he helps her escape from some people who try to capture (or kill?) her during the exchange.

Later, Natalia decides to defect to America, but only if Condorman handles the defection. By this time, Russ is back, and has no idea who Condorman is, but Harry knows. So he gets Woody to go on this other mission, but Woody only agrees if the CIA will provide him with all the gadgets and things he'd previously written about in his comic book. He also creates a character called Laser Lady, based on Natalia. Meanwhile, Natalia's former boss (and probably her lover) in the KGB, Krokov, sends out every agent he can to try to prevent her defection, and to stop Condorman. (The main KGB agent is an assassin named Morovich.)

Well, there are a lot of chase scenes, and whatnot. And as I said, cool gadgets and vehicles. It's all really silly, but fun. And of course the good guys win in the end. And in the course of their adventures, Natalia falls as hard for Woody as he had for her from the very beginning. I dunno what else to tell you. (I've probably said too much already.)

...Except, I remember sometime in my youth seeing a similarly comedic spy movie that had a scene where the woman appeared to betray the man she was working with to their enemies, and I think, like, when the enemies asked what he wanted for breakfast, or something, he said "Eggs Benedict... Arnold." Somehow I always thought that line was from this movie, but now that I watched it again, I see that it wasn't. So I tried googling it, and I just can't find the slightest clue as to what movie I'm thinking of. So if anyone knows, please let me know. (lonewander@gmail.com)

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