Film review: Undercover Blues

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 15 1993 12:00 a.m. MDT

Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid sparkle together in "Undercover Blues," demonstrating some genuine chemistry as married secret agents who are on maternity leave with their baby when duty calls them back into service.

They are Jane and Jeff Blue, vacationing in New Orleans when contacted by a superior who wants them to track down the international terrorist Novacek (Fiona Shaw), who has stolen a case of streamlined nuclear missiles.

So, the Blues return to action, baby in tow, and are soon in the thick of it. And as if the action they stir up isn't enough, they must also contend with a pair of New Orleans cops (Obba Babatunde, Larry Miller), a stumblebum thief (Stanley Tucci) looking for revenge and, of course, Novacek's henchmen.

Some of this is funny, but too much tends to fall flat. There are some cute exchanges, amusing puns and goofy gags, but when things begin to sag, the film tends to go for literal punchlines, comic violence rather than wit.

Despite that, the studio press materials for "Undercover Blues" describe it as a blend of "The Thin Man" movies and the "Avengers" TV series. In truth, its sensibilities are more in the "Three Men and a Baby" arena, crossed with "The Pink Panther," by way of any generic James Bond plot.

The idea for a '90s update of the husband-and-wife crime-fighting team does pose some distinct possibilities, and goodness knows movie audiences are always ready for another Nick and Nora Charles. But while director Herbert Ross ("The Goodbye Girl," "Steel Magnolias") does conjure up some chuckle-worthy moments from Ian Abrams' first screenplay, it's an up-and-down affair. And for every inspired comic supporting character, like Tucci's hilariously pompous tough guy, there's a misfire, such as Miller's very annoying lisping cop.

The violence is largely bloodless, but the body count is a bit high for fluffy entertainment. Some of the sadistic humor here is on a par with the "Lethal Weapon" films, only toned down for a PG-13 rating.

The saving grace is clearly the winning performances offered up by Quaid and especially Turner, who beef up their roles with charm and talent that the script and direction lack.

In addition to the violence, the PG-13 rating is for some profanity, some vulgar dialogue and sexual innuendo.

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