Spoofs are one of cinema’s most popular genres. Obviously, classics like Airplane! stand out, but even a decent one like Top Secret! will survive the test of time. Depending on your mileage, even the Not Another… movies may illicit some hearty laughs. But what happens if the spoof seems to take itself too seriously? Secret Agent 00-Soul attempts to answer this question in one of the most confusing movies ever made.
Secret Agent 00-Soul stars Billy Dee Williams as James Brown III (Secret Agent Zero), an American Secret Agent that is either very clumsy or lucky. Agent Zero, his son Junior, and British Secret Agent Alex Westmore find themselves in a series of adventures while trying to escape or capture an evil secret agent from another country. I think.
Secret Agent 00-Soul is a mess of a movie. Instead of an actual plot, the movie has a series of vaguely related events with the same characters. Zero is obviously the hero, and the villains do evil things, but nothing seems to matter. There are rapping mummies, assassination attempts, and conversations that are about nothing and lead nowhere. Needless to say, by the time Agent Zero is about to make out with Alex Westmore only to receive a phone call to tell him that she is his daughter, I was lost.
Making matters worse, Secret Agent 00-Soul does not seem to know what it wants to be. There are odd scene transitions that are similar to the old Batman television show, just without any logo or music. It is funny at first, but then they happen after serious moments in the film and it becomes apparent this was a stylistic choice. There is a long moment in the film with a Scooby Doo like ending and random explosions that are reminiscent of Sgt. Kabukiman. Other moments are treated with severe gravity leaving the audience with an overall feeling of confusion.
The acting is generic at best. Billy Dee Williams stands out but it is hard to tell if it is overacting or if he is that much better than the rest of the cast. Dialogue is your standard action/comedy fare and would be fine if everyone’s delivery was not so wooden.
The tone of the movie may be the strangest thing. Comedians like Chris Rock and Larry David have taken from their cultures and written jokes that audiences may not be able to completely relate to but still find funny. Secret Agent 00-Soul is mean spirited at times and seems to come from a different era. Agent 0’s son, Junior, is particularly offensive and seems like a character out of a turn of the 20th century minstrel show instead of a movie released in 1990.
The weirdest thing about Secret Agent 00-Soul is when it is not being borderline racist it is mildly entertaining. (In order to get any enjoyment out of the film, the viewer also has to forego trying to find anything resembling a plot.) The movie is so ridiculous and filled with nonsense that you cannot help but laugh at loud. Where else can you see Billy Dee Williams unironically running around in a Dracula cape for fifteen minutes?
Secret Agent 00-Soul is an odd movie. Make no mistake about it; this is a very bad movie. It is so off the wall, however, that it stumbles into some entertainment. The question becomes: how funny is a movie, if all its comedy is unintentional?