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‘So I Married an Axe Murderer’ (PG-13)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 30, 1993

The translation of a television performer's stardom to the big screen is a tricky business, but Mike Myers pulls it off in "So I Married an Axe Murderer" by presenting himself as amiable good company, like a slightly overenergetic and perpetually eager-to-please puppy.

Myers's role here is that of a young San Francisco writer named Charlie, who spends most of his evenings reading poetry at a neo-beat night spot. And early on, the actor appears to devote most of his energy to lowering our expectations for the character.

Everything he does is charmingly lightweight and disposable and reasonably impossible to resist. And in the end, because the character is so easily within reach for him, you may come away feeling a little cheated, as if you hadn't quite seen a movie at all.

Charlie, it seems, has a problem with women. Being the direct descendant of hyperactive and possibly deranged Scots (Myers plays his own father, Stewart Mackenzie, and Brenda Fricker his bawdy Mom), Charlie eventually comes to believe that all of his girlfriends are flawed in some fundamental way. Like his last girlfriend -- she was a thief. And the one before that? "She smelled like soup," he says.

Charlie's initial courtship of Harriet (Nancy Travis), whom he spies working as a butcher in a shop called "Meats of the World," goes swimmingly.

But Charlie's mother has put the idea in his head that there is a young woman on the loose whose modus operandi is to marry innocent men and then murder them on their honeymoon. And when Charlie discovers that Harriet's past overlaps with the killer's, he becomes convinced that she is the axe murderer.

As Harriet, Travis's main job is to litter the ground with red herrings, hinting that she may be the murderer. Of course, this doesn't fool us for a second, and after Amanda Plummer is introduced as her demonstrably peculiar sister, it becomes rather tedious watching the filmmakers go through the motions of framing Harriet for crimes that we know she didn't commit.

It doesn't help matters much that director Thomas Schlamme pays homage to great marital murder mysteries of the past, mostly because the attempts to borrow from the classics are so halfhearted.

The most likable scenes in the film are more modest, such as when Myers and Travis are alone together, flirting and playing off each other's relaxed spontaneity.

In the role of his father, Myers does manage the rare accomplishment of upstaging himself. Other than that, the film's most hilarious moments belong to Alan Arkin, who plays the infuriatingly understanding officer in command of the police station where Charlie's undercover cop friend, Tony (Anthony LaPaglia), works. And against whose nature it is to rant and rave in the blustery manner customary for movie cops. And who responds to Tony's masochistic pleadings for abuse with ample vigor but not much conviction. For the movie too, the spirit, at least, is willing.

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