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Originally published Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

'OSS 117: Lost in Rio': Finding laughs in French spy parody

"OSS 117: Lost in Rio," the sequel to the 2006 French hit "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies," features a bumbling secret agent on the trail of a Nazi officer hiding out in Brazil.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'OSS 117: Lost in Rio,' with Jean Dujardin, Louise Monot, Rüdiger Vogler, Alex Lutz. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, from a screenplay by Hazanavicius and Jean-François Halin. 101 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In French with English subtitles. Varsity.

"The name's de La Bath. Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath."

Smug French superspy agent 117 (Jean Dujardin) doesn't introduce himself with that mouthful of Gallic syllables, but if he ever met his British opposite number, it would be apt to hear such a catchphrase in response to 007's famous opening line.

As it happens, "OSS 117: Lost in Rio" has plenty of other memorable bits to distinguish it as a parody of the James Bond franchise, among others. The bumbling de La Bath can also trace his lineage to earlier satirist secret agents like Maxwell Smart, Matt Helm, Derek Flint and Austin Powers, and on a similar one-note level.

As a follow-up to the 2006 French hit "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies," the jokes become a little hard to sustain. But the tenor, tone and immaculately lampooned art direction often make up for shtick that gradually grows thin in the belly-laugh department.

Set in swinging 1967, the film stock, design and formal style captures and skewers the period with reverence and wit the same way "Nest of Spies" recreated its 1956 era and locale. Director Michel Hazanavicius casts a keen eye on the visuals while Dujardin maintains the comic buffoonery and precisely shellacked hairdo of his singularly misogynistic, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and extraordinarily lucky screen persona.

The situation has de La Bath on the trail of microfilm that lists disloyal World War II collaborators and is in the possession of an ex-Nazi officer hiding out in Brazil. As oblivious to the foolish caricature he cuts as he is to the enormous foot filling his mouth, agent 117 teams with a sexy Mossad officer (Louise Monot) who's only interested in the Nazi — not the microfilm, and definitely not 117.

There are some cleverly schemed set pieces that sustain the spoof, including an extended chase that pays homage to "North by Northwest" and elaborate gags like a wacky LSD-fueled hippie beach orgy. Though the overall routine gets to be a little tiresome, the abundance of self-effacing Frenchiness is a big help in renewing 117 as an original cinematic loon.

Ted Fry: tedfry@hotmail.com

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