Mike Myers used to be one of the most promising comedians in either film or television. One of the undisputed stars of the most talented Saturday Night Live cast since the classic line-up, Myers was equally good at playing every day schmoes as he was at outlandish characters. It's a shame that his film career has focused almost entirely on the latter, to the exclusion of the former. In fact, the only film where he's played anything resembling a normal guy is this underrated little gem, So I Married An Axe Murderer.
Mike Myers plays Charlie Mackenzie, a would-be beat poet in San Francisco. He's notoriously bad at committing the women in his life, as his highly theatrical and hilarious poems illustrate. But then he meets Harriet (Nancy Travis), a beautiful butcher with a winning smile and an even better personality. She's the best woman he's ever dated, but he can't help noticing that she seems to fit the description of a serial killer mentioned in the Weekly World News. Now he has to decide whether or not his fears are true or just his inability to commit rearing its ugly head once again.
So I Married An Axe Murderer is an anomaly in Myers' film catalog. Charlie is an average joe. There's nothing especially crazy about him. Sure, he's a bit quirky, but the part plays into Myers' natural charm. He's not a kooky character with silly catch phrases. And the scope of the film is decidedly small scale. There's no guest appearances by rock stars, no globe-trotting spy antics, and no midget jokes. It's a movie about relationships.
At the same time, the film sows the seeds for many of Myers' most obnoxious comedic traits. In the film, he not only plays Charlie, but Charlie's father as well. Charlie's father is, shockingly, Scottish, and is loud and obnoxious. While the part is funny, it's the direct antecedent to characters like Fat Bastard, who are decidedly not. Also, it's clear that the film's box office failure (coming on the heels of the mega success of Wayne's World) convinced Myers that cheesy characters was the only way for him to go. Now, don't get me wrong. I love both Wayne's World movies and the first Austin Powers, but I think The Love Guru has proved that Myers needs to find a new shtick.
If there's any fault to So I Married An Axe Murderer, it's that it's simply not as funny as Wayne's World. But, to be fair, neither was Wayne's World 2, which coasted on our familiarity with Wayne and Garth. Axe Murderer is, as I mentioned, a smaller, simpler film. The pleasures derived are also simpler, but that doesn't lessen their impact. There are lots of things to love about the movie. For one thing, the relationship between Harriet and Charlie is charming and down to earth. You really feel for both of them at various points throughout the picture.
The best comedic bits come as asides to the main storyline. For example, Charlie's best friend, Tony (Anthony LaPaglia), is a cop and his boss, played by Alan Arkin, is too sensitive and compassionate. Tony convinces his boss that he needs to be a hard ass, and the results are hilarious. Similarly, Charlie and Tony take a visit to Alcatraz, where their tour guide is played by the late, and great, Phil Hartman, who tells them a darkly humorous tale of an inmate disagreement.
While it's a minor entry in Myers' filmography, I find myself coming back to Axe Murderer more and more often. Its effortless charms strike a chord with me, much more so than the falsely manufactured laughs of Myers more recent fare. Hopefully the poor box office of The Love Guru will convince Myers its time to dig a new comedic well, as he tried to do here.
The Blu-ray Disc: