It’s hard to remove all of the baggage. This is Mike Myers, before he ruined Dr. Suess (finishing off the work Jim Carrey started), cashed in as an ogre, made two unnecessary sequels to a movie that was merely okay on the first go-round, and before he started popping up in a seemingly ever present (and never ending) advertising campaign for his new movie which has him playing a weird foreigner alongside Verne Troyer (wait…that sounds familiar). Indeed, the Mike Myers who shows up as poet Charlie Mackenzie in So I Married an Axe Murderer is a different Mike Myers all together; one that isn’t constantly relying on nut shots, wacky and unrealistic characters, little people, and bad teeth for laughs. Instead, Myers looks uncomfortable at being asked to carry the movie playing a regular Joe who is sure that his girlfriend is a tabloid axe murderer.
So I Married an Axe Murderer came at an awkward career phase for Myers; it came out in 1993, sandwiched between his (excellent!) first film Wayne’s World movie and his (underrated) second one (Wayne’s World 2). There were still questions about whether or not Myers could carry a film; sure, Wayne’s World was a tidy little picture (shot in something like 30 days during the summer), but could Myers play a character that didn’t require him to act stoned and ham it up for the camera?
So I Married an Axe Murderer proved to be his first, and only, shot at legitimacy. The film follows Myers’ Mackenzie, a poet-wannabe who gets his kicks reading his poetry in typical hipster coffee shops in early-‘90s San Francisco. He’s a typical Generation-X male who has an intense fear of intimacy, and to cope, deflects it with thick irony (mostly by claiming old girlfriends smelled like soup, was a member of the Cosa Nostra, or one was a klepto), and his response to adulthood has been to perpetually remain a child (he still eats Apple Jacks and asserts Barney and Betty Rubble are his benchmarks for a loving relationship).
That all changes when Harriet (played by Nancy Travis, she of Becker fame) enters his life, or rather, he enters her meat shop to buy a haggis. Charlie falls for Harriet hard, believing she is “the one material” after their first date. Of course, Charlie looks to sabotage the relationship as soon as it gets heavy; Charlie convinces himself Harriet is Mrs. X, a serial killer he reads about in the Weekly World News.
Axe Murderer then turns into a shlock mix of suspense and paint by numbers romantic comedy. Will Charlie find out if Harriet is really Mrs. X? Is she? Can you really believe anything you read in the Weekly World News? If you’ve seen one movie in your life, you already know the answer.
But it’s during the ride that Axe Murderer makes it nearly worth it. In what would turn out to be a signature move, Myers plays his own father in the film, Stuart, a Scottish lout whose typical Friday night is spent sauntering around his living room in his underwear singing tracks by the Bay City Rollers (they’re Scotland’s number one ‘70s musical export, you know). Myers’ riffs as Stuart on the size of Charlie’s younger brother’s head (which in the span of three minutes he compares to an orange on a toothpick, Sputnik, and a planetoid with its own weather system), and a worldwide media conspiracy that encompasses the Queen, the Vatican, and, “before he went tits up”, Colonel Sanders, are ones for the comedy vault. Just try not repeating them for hours afterwards.
The supporting cast does its best to prop up the film in its weaker moments. Phil Hartman drops by as John Johnson, an Alcatraz tour guide who goes by Vicky, and makes his short time on screen count by describing in great detail (and hilariously deadpan) the horrors Machine Gun Kelly did to his prison “bitch”. Steven Wright plays a helpless pilot who falls asleep while flying the plane, and then proceeds to describe the dream he had. Charlie’s best friend, starving for action police officer Tony Giardino, is played by Anthony LaPaglia, who is the perfect straight man to Charlie’s neurotic poet, and Alan Arkin, showing some of the comedic chops that would get him an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, plays his too-nice lieutenant.
But the man whose job it is to make the story work is Myers, and he fails to connect as Mackenzie. Throughout the film Myers looks visibly uncomfortable in his own skin. He can’t resist the urge to ham it up, going to his Linda Richman voice when he’s trying to be funny, and has a glaring inability to pull off the film’s tender moments. At least when he’s supposed to be funny (like an early scene in a meat shop), he (mostly) is.
Overall, Axe Murderer has become more dated than either of the Wayne’s World movies (thanks to the boom-bust cycle of metal satire), and is so seeped in ‘90s iconography it serves as a visual time capsule. There’s enough songs by The La’s, Thighmasters, Garth Brooks references, and juicers to make this a close runner-up to Clueless and Reality Bites as a movie that’s context will make no sense to anyone born after 1990.
Most importantly though, So I Married an Axe Murderer is an easy reference point to where Myers began to go wrong. He started playing multiple characters, began turning into an unequivocal ham, and could never play it serious again (even in semi-serious movies like Mystery, Alaska, where his ridiculously stupid hockey commentator killed off any lingering thoughts that the film could have really happened).
But the purpose of this “Special Edition” DVD (which coincidentally, features no extras beyond a nifty cardboard outer casing) isn’t for appreciating So I Married an Axe Murderer in its own, flawed, right. It’s to remind you that stateside, anyway, The Love Guru hits a cinema near you on June 20.