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Initially given the working title of Cloak and Diaper, you'd be forgiven for not having even heard of this Saturday-Matinee style of feature film which starred two of the hottest actors from the early 1990s, Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid.  Unfortunately, the end result wasn't quite the sum of its parts that it should have been as no-one quite knew how to take this once relatively simple formula of one-liner comedy and quirky action set-pieces.  The plot too is kind of confusing and it has taken me the best part of ten years (that's how old the film is right now, made in 1993) to bring together the more critical parts of the script which end up becoming almost throw-away when they are finally produced on-screen.  Much of the dialogue and other ideas were ad-libbed on location which doesn't really help in selling the story, but it sure makes for great light-hearted entertainment.

Undercover Blues
This is the kind of flick that kids would instantly enjoy as some of the goings-on almost resemble that of the old Warner Bros Looney Toons - very slapstick as well as making a mockery of what should be the more serious parts of the movie (like death and bodily maiming).  This was conceptualised as a fun piece of fluff for the whole family to enjoy, however the film-ratings board in some countries were quite harsh in their evaluation of the obviously over-the-top comical happenings, including that of Muerte (aka Morty ... no no, Death!) whose scenes were initially little more than cameo but were brought forward to play continual counterpoint to everything else around him.  And then there's Dennis Quaid's smile which looks not unlike the one sported by Jack Nicholson in Batman ... think about that one for a bit.

Also, the director of Undercover Blues, Herbert Ross, wanted to represent as much of the New Orleans visual imagery and rich musical culture as he possibly could, so every scene has been setup in a way to exploit these elements to the max.  There have been around 200 film productions to date that have had footage shot here in some form or another, but only a handful have bothered to give it a proper locational reference within the movie itself, the most famous of these being A Murder Of Crows, J.F.K. and especially Hard Target (with its extensive locational backdrops and music stylings in the soundmix).

Undercover Blues
Movie
Semi-retired couple Jane (Kathleen Turner) and Jefferson (Dennis Quaid) Blue are taking a long overdue break (and unexpected maternity leave) from the daily rigours of international spydom and infiltration of the world's bad guys and gals.  They've decided to holiday in New Orleans with their six month old baby when their boss turns up with an offer they'd rather refuse ... the evil Paulina Novacek (Fiona Shaw) just happens to be in town plotting yet another wicked "take over the world" plot again.

The Blues have to deal with all sorts of distractions here ... Muerte (Stanley Tucci) who has a really hard time learning the valuable lesson of "ass-kicking" - two equally persistent police officers Ted Sawyer (Obba Babatundé) and Halsey (Larry Miller) determined to find out what the Blues' are really in town for - plus your usual array of gun-wielding and taser-toting henchmen.  To relieve them from all this terrorist tension, the Blues hook up with fellow tourists Vern & Bonnie Newman (Tom Arnold & Park Overall).

Video
In general, this isn't a good advertisement for the DVD format, but I commend MGM for having done as much as they could with the print ... it's understandable that there probably wasn't a huge amount of money set aside in their remastering budget to support this relatively unpopular movie anyways.

Undercover Blues
Things don't quite get off to a promising start when the opening credits go by, the background is obviously meant to be perfectly static but there is a mountain of dirt and grain exhibited throughout this section as well as the entire film itself.  If you were to continually look out for this fault it would no doubt drive you barmy, but hopefully your attention will be swayed enough by the antics of the cast on-screen to distract you from this problem.  The encoding rate has been set as high as is possible on a single-layer DVD for the 90 minutes of video stored within so this helps to set aside any possible MPEG-blocking difficulties that would surely be encountered from a film negative of this age and condition.

Black levels are naturally dark and the shadow detail holds up surprisingly well since half of this movie takes place at night, so the many scenes that I was afraid would not be at all viewable actually come out a lot better than I ever expected them to.  Equally remarkable is the lack of low-level noise which may well have become evident had this film been encoded way back in the early days of DVD.  Colours are about as dirty as the New Orleans environment is famous for but in a good way, with saturation being very natural without any unnecessary enhancement added into it.

I've decided to give one this a slightly higher rating than what I would normally give for something this "messy", but I believe that without an extensive frame-by-frame remaster of the original elements the people at MGM have done a very credible job with what they had to work with.

Undercover Blues
Audio
This has to be one of the more unremarkable soundtracks I've heard in a long time and that's saying something.  If you've ever read the back of many a music CD you'll have noticed the disclaimer regarding the superior digital-mastering quality may actually reveal the limitations of the original sound recordings ... well, this is the DVD equivalent of that.  It's not that the soundtracks here are completely deficient, but they do show up the undemanding requirements of budget-movie soundmixes of the day.

There are five language soundtracks to choose from here with nearly all of them, especially the English one, having the most presence and body attached to it - but the Italian soundtrack for some reason has a much lower volume for the underlying movie-mix that lays beneath the dubbing, so it ends up being even less impressive compared to the rest of them.

This is mainly a frontstage (centre speaker) driven affair with a welcome but only occasional left/right panning for the more exciting moments.  Surround usage is limited to ambient effects and spartan support for the action sequences, but the sub-woofer (it seems) has turned itself off and climbed up on the couch just to enjoy the movie with you.  Dialogue is mostly intelligible, even when the odd grain-silo or flamethrower is operating.

I thought I'd give this rating what it deserves here as I'm sure that a proper remix could have been possible with the original multitrack recordings, rather than just rehashing the old two-channel mix that was made for its initial distribution.

Extras
After much searching around the menu system (all of five seconds), there was only the theatrical trailer.

Undercover Blues
Summary
For a back-catalogue title, you could do a lot worse than this movie.  This is the kind of DVD that may spark interest in the next person who browses through your DVD collection (as did my last visitor).  They will wonder why they've never heard of it before and might want to have a look at this "casual no-brainer" of a movie that you have so eloquently described it as.

If you like your spy movies with dry martinis and beautiful women throwing themselves at complete strangers, then look at the James Bond franchise.  If your tastes lean towards the atrociously predictable style of comedy, then check out Austin Powers.  However, if you don't mind seeing something with a little bit of each in-between, Undercover Blues will help to remind you of the days when "having fun" was all that was needed to please the masses, even if you had an ingenious plot trying to poke its head out of all the fun ... or as with today's movies, heaps of flashy visual FX to blind you from that at the same time.


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