20 Aug 2015

The Man From Uncle - film review

From At The Movies, 7:40 pm on 20 August 2015

Simon Morris reviews the update of Sixties TV series, The Man From Uncle - a cool, Cold War spy spoof. Yes. Another one.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, but it’s not a very reliable one when it comes to picking a movie project. Too many giant TV hits of the past have returned, years later, as under-achieving movie flops. Often the enthusiasm of the producer and the studio for a childhood favourite overwhelms their caution. They forget that the young audience they’re aiming at has never heard of it.

The TV Man from UNCLE came off the back of the first James Bond craze, and it was even more popular, for a while.

In the new film the Cold War is hotting up, and the American CIA and the Russian KGB find themselves up against an unlikely enemy. Faced with Nazis, the two spies’ bosses order them to work together. 

And this is where a one-off Man from UNCLE film suffers in comparison with a TV series – particularly one from the TV-mad Sixties. Back then the UNCLE boys were on every week. We got used to them, and, apparently, fell in love with them. But here we’re being asked to succumb after just one episode. The plot – indeed the whole movie – depends entirely on us being excited by the chemistry between our two old adversaries.

In fact, the only real charm in the movie comes late in the day with a very old hand at this sort of stuff. It’s Hugh Grant who walks away with The Man From UNCLE’s very few honours without breaking a sweat.

The question is “Which 2015 UK spy spoof – this one or the even less attractive Kingsman – is most likely to warrant a second episode?”  

My guess is, not this one.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to At The Movies

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)