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So I Married an Axe Murderer

(SPOILERS) An unlikely choice for an extended universe, even if unofficially. But with Mike Myers' imminent return to original comedy, his first outing since The – unfairly maligned – Love Guru, So I Married an Axe Murderer gets a chance to be recognised as more than simply a fizzle, one best known for featuring the by-then-ancient The La’s’ There She Goes as its theme song.

Charlie: Hard-hearted harbinger of haggis.

The Pentaverate finds Myers heading straight to Netflix, bypassing the potential for another box office disaster (the critical response remains to be seen). It seems the six-episode series won’t be featuring his So I Married an Axe Murderer Caledonian conspiracy theorist Stuart Mackenzie (father of lead character Charlie). This is less down to Myers’ subsequently well-worn Scotsman schtick (see also Fat Bastard and Shrek) than reconceiving the Pentaverate themselves.

When Myers boarded So I Married an Axe Murderer, he and Neil Mullarkey rewrote Robby Fox’s original screenplay (the latter’s CV unpromisingly includes a Pauly Shore comedy, Jeff Goldblum starrer Shooting Elizabeth – which sounds vaguely like How to Murder Your Wife – and the more recent Grand-Daddy Day Care). You’d have thought anyone viewing the finished movie would wish to distance themselves from it, but Myers and Mullarkey strove for a co-screenplay credit, one they failed to secure after Fox took it to WGA arbitration (it seems Myers also made his presence felt on set, clashing with director Thomas Schlamme; suggestions were rife that Myers was an egomaniac, a comedian’s standard malaise).

The Pentaverate passage occurs early in the proceedings, recounted to Charlie’s cop pal Tony Giadino (Anthony LaPaglia). LaPaglia commits the cardinal crime of laughing uproariously at Myer’s Stuart schtick, but Pop Mackenzie is nevertheless one of the movie’s better elements:

Stuart Mackenzie: Well, it's a well-known fact, Sonny Jim, that there's a secret society of the five wealthiest people in the world, known as The Pentaverate, who run everything in the world, including the newspapers, and meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows.
Tony Giardino: So who's in this Pentaverate?
Stuart Mackenzie: The Queen, The Vatican, The Gettys, The Rothschilds, and Colonel Sanders before he went tits up. Oh, I hated the Colonel with is wee beady eyes, and that smug look on his face. "Oh, you're gonna buy my chicken! Ohhhhh!"
Charlie Mackenzie: Dad, how can you hate "The Colonel"?
Stuart Mackenzie: Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes ya crave it fortnightly, smartass!

To which Charlie responds “Cuckoo!”. May (Brenda Fricker) has already characterised hubby Stuart’s rants as “Lyndon LaRouche rubbish”, but it has to be admitted that Pop Mackenzie’s conspiratorial rumblings aren’t sofar wide of the mark, particularly when it comes to the Colonel and his wee beady eyes. LaRouche’s ideas ran the gamut of political persuasions and paranoias; he was broadly labelled both “fascist” and “racist”, which tends to be a lazily dismissive – but nevertheless a frequently highly effective – catch-all.

LaRouche was raised a Quaker, going on to espouse Marxist principles under the NCLC (National Caucus of Labour Committees). As his influence and outspokenness grew, he became hugely paranoid that he was an assassination target and under surveillance (the latter assumption was probably reasonable). He’d be investigated (and convicted) for fraud, researched nuclear fusion and was tied to the Schiller Institute. As far as hierarchies were concerned, he divided the world between Platonists and Aristotelians, and as such he rejected any notion of a coordinated Illuminati/Elite program (so it’s unlikely he’d have vouched for a Pentaverate). Elsewhere, his record on predicted economic collapse/war/depression could compete with you average apocalyptic evangelist’s goalpost moving for the Second Coming.

On the credit side, though, his positions included denouncing the likes of Rockefeller, Kissinger and the WHO (the latter “viciously lying to the world” and following an agenda of genocide and euthanasia). He attested to the October Surprise (with regard to the Iranian hostage crisis), campaigned for an investigation with into the Franklin scandal, claimed 9/11 was an inside job, argued Global warming was a lie, that rock music was used as a “deliberate way to subvert the United States” and espoused the values 432 Hz. He wanted to restore the Glass-Steagall Act, and he compared Obama to Hitler (via Obamacare). On the debit, it seems he had no concept of concerns over vaccination (he considered senators opposing it in the ’70s to be part of a genocidal policy) or virus theory (his batty AIDS-scaring was a key platform issue in his runs for office). He was pro-SDI, pro-DDT and believed the Clinton impeachment was part of a British plot.

Indeed, confronted by such a melange, one might be inclined to assume LaRouche was controlled opposition. Miles Mathis, who knows a thing or two about misdirection, obfuscation and indeed controlled opposition, suggested he was “A higher-level guru, placed fairly far up the mountain to misdirect the most avant of the avant garde conspiracy theorists”. By this point – this was 2016 – Mathis was himself at the stage where he felt the need to pre-empt objections he knew were coming (“Well, I'm not famous, am I? I am not on TV, am I? I am not promoted by some studio or consortium or publisher or think-tank. No one is sending you here: if you got to these pages you got here on your own, probably by lucking out in a websearch”). Which, if you think wraps that one up satisfactorily, well, you’re probably a Miles “dear avid fan”. Wait, he’s still on it (“I don’t even have a Wikipedia page”).

So is Myers doing us a service, unleashing The Pentaverate right now, when a significant swathe of the world knows at least something is amiss, their mileage obviously varying? One might like to believe so, but one should preface any such leeway with the knowledge of his visit to Langley in 2009, in the company of wife Kelly Tilsdale (he’s also an Officer of the Order of Canada, as of 2017; always turn a national honour down, if you value your credibility).

During his HQ visithe not only toured the agency’s museum, but also had lunch with CIA officials, addressed several hundred CIA officers saying how grateful he is for their service, and paid tribute to his mother — who was in the British Royal Air Force during World War II and held a security clearance”. Awwww. How nice. Anyone still believing in his integrity should recall he cowered before Sherry Lansing like a frightened bunny with regard to his planned, Passport to Pimlico-riffing plot for Wayne’s World 2 (the resulting movie, which came out the same year as So I Married an Axe Murderer, sunk a sequel to an original that probably should, on balance, have remained a tolerable SNL sketch).

Myers: I’m obsessed with the world of secret societies, and the people that believe them. And it thought, ‘Well, if there are secret societies, to turn it on its head, what if they were nice?’

And then there’s above, which sounds desperately weak, all told, and exactly the message THEY would probably like broadcast; Netflix’s Pentaverate (most of them played by Myers) are consequently entirely different individuals to So I Married an Axe Murderer’s Pentaverate. Myers also boasted his touchstone is Dr. Strangelove, in terms of being “deep and silly at the same time”. Per Empire: “He has something to say about conspiracy theories, about power, and about the limits of what people will believe”. I’m sure CIA’s best-bud Mike has made something every bit as approved and sanctioned as Elite-insider Kubrick did before him.

As for So I Married an Axe Murderer, the basic premise – Charlie believes the butcher he has fallen for (Nancy Travis’ Harriet Michaels) may be a murderer, one leaving a trail of axed husbands in her wake – it isn’t necessarily a bust, as a comedic riff on your standard Joe Eszterhas plot. Although, by that time, Eszterhas’ typical screenplay was bordering on parody anyway.

No, the big, glaring, insurmountable problem So I Married an Axe Murderer has is casting Myers as romantic lead. Not such a problem when he’s playing it straight – he’s flat, but not outright lousy – but being “funny” in character is excruciating. He’s a floppy-haired Michael MacIntrye meets Robert Morse meets Billy Crystal/Jerry Seinfeld (I’m citing the latter as the appearance of Michael Richards here is surely no coincidence). Myers has no screen charisma as himself, which may be a Peter Sellers kind of problem; it’s hard to say for sure, but it’s telling that he has thoroughly immersed himself in BIG personas since and never again gone within sniffing distance of romcom.

It seems Nancy Travis accidentally cut off the tip of her finger while chortling at Myers – presumably his antics during the risible meat-based-humour montage – which is beyond comprehension. To run with the style of his poet’s corner monologues “Woman – he-is-not-funny. No-he-is-not. In fact-he-is-ra-ther-a-clot”. Travis is fine; Sharon Stone had been up for the part, but she wanted to play Rose (Amanda Plummer) too. Stone might have been a good call, although I’m doubtful of her comedy chops. The problem with casting Plummer – if you care about the twist in a comedy – is that it’s obvious from the moment you meet her that Harriet’s sister is a psycho. That said, it’s easy enough to believe Travis could take out Myers lickety-split (see Lansing). And that said (2), the moment where Charlie, having been kicked in the balls by Rose, kicks her in the snatch is quite funny.

Charlie: Hey, Mom, I find it interesting that you refer to the Weekly World News as "the paper." The paper contains facts.
May: This paper contains facts. And this paper has the eighth highest circulation in the whole wide world. Right? Plenty of facts. "Pregnant man gives birth." That's a fact.

Generally, however, anything decent here is papered around the edges. The Mackenzie house is a rich Scotch broth, featuring a Scottish Wall of Fame boasting Sheen Easton, among others, a photo of the Queen Mum on a dart board, the Bay City Rollers on the stereo, and McEwan’s Export on tap. Stuart is fond of insulting his offspring, telling Charlie to put a bra on “ya wee girl, ya wee fairy” and mocking son Heed (Matt Doherty) for his “huge noggin”. Their dedication to Weekly World News may be for yuks, but it’s also a bit too close to home (“Pregnant man gives birth”, indeed). Fricker’s performance is very game, particularly when May comes over all randy, snogging Tony at any opportunity (he has “turned into a right sexy wee bastard”). A later wedding dance finds Stuart singing Rod Stewart numbers (it seems Myers wasn’t originally going to play Stuart but was persuaded how funny he was. Hoots!)

Captain: Well, the truth of the matter is, I don't report to a Commissioner. I report to a committee. Some of whom are appointed, some elected, and the rest co-opted on a bi-annual basis. It's a quorum, so to speak.

Then there’s Phil Hartman as an inappropriately anecdotal Alcatraz guide (“And as if this wasn't enough retribution for Kelly, the next day he and four other inmates took turns pissing into the bitch's ocular cavities”). Alan Arkin is Tony’s waaay too nice and amenable police captain, and so completely the opposite of every police captain who ever appeared in a cop show or movie. He duly attempts to bring some aggression to the relationship (“Was it too much with the ethnic slurs?”) Steven Wright delivers a succession of masterfully droll one-liners as Tony’s pilot (“It shouldn’t take very long… Actually, I have no concept of time”; “I’ve never done it at night” (flying); recounting a dream where he was “eight and a half months premature. The doctors were freakin’ out”). And the incomparable Charles Grodin, proving peerlessly curmudgeonly in response to Tony’s attempts to requisition his car: “I happen to know for a fact you don’t have a right to commandeer my vehicle”.

Stuart: Alright, we have a piper who’s down.

Indeed, cut Charlie out of So I Married an Axe Murderer, and you could say it’s pretty funny. But less than half-an-hour long. It’s a safe bet Myers was also responsible for selecting the very contemporary soundtrack, as foregrounding the tunes has been a constant in his career (his last proper role was in Bohemian Rhapsody, which is telling). This Poem Sucks doesn’t, but the surrounding movie very nearly does. Hopefully, the same won’t be true of The Pentaverate.

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