Comedic actor Mike Meyers has had an interesting film career. On the one hand he can be considered an amazing success, because he has three huge franchises under his belt. On the other hand, he sometimes gets looked at as something of a failure, because everything he’s done outside of those franchises has been less than stellar.
The first two franchises Meyers launched were Wayne’s World and Austin Powers; moneymaking juggernauts in their own rights for sure. But it was the third series of films he was involved in, the animated Shrek movies, that really broke the bank. This tale of an overgrown ogre finding true love managed to connect with children and parents alike, and the original spawned a series of sequels that broke all sorts of box office records and pushed mountains of merchandise. I’m sure Meyers was a rich man already, but Shrek made him very rich.
One project that didn’t do so well for the guy was So, I Married an Axe Murderer. It was Meyers’ big followup to his breakthrough success with Wayne’s World, the movie that could have seen him moving away from the heavy character work he did on Saturday Night Live and moving closer to taking more mainstream roles playing regular guys. Unfortunately it didn’t even make a tenth of the money that Wayne’s World pulled in, it’s been largely forgotten over time, and Meyers hasn’t been accepted in a role where he plays a regular guy since.
What do they have in common?
Both of these movies came during crucial points in Meyers’ career. So, I Married an Axe Murderer was the first time he was tested in a starring role where he wasn’t playing a pre-established character from something else. It was his big chance at becoming a leading man in romantic comedies. Shrek was Meyers’ attempt at coming back to comedy after Austin Powers’ huge success led to him disastrously trying his hand at being a dramatic actor in movies like Mystery Alaska and 54. Before Shrek it looked like his career might consist of being Wayne Campbell, Austin Powers, and nothing else.
But, more importantly, they’re both movies where Meyers is making liberal use of his goofy Scottish accent; a talent that he seems to be really proud of.
Why is Shrek Overrated?
I can understand liking this movie if you’re six years old: it’s loud, there are lots of bright colors, and tons of juvenile humor. But the fact that this became one of those huge animated movies that resonated with audiences beyond children and made tons of money across demographics is baffling to me. In the first minute of the movie you’ve already sat through a Smash Mouth song and a fart joke. All of the humor aimed at the adults in the audience consists of witless attempts at veiled raunch, like having a character say, “Do you think he’s compensating for something?”
And there’s nary a moment when Eddie Murphy isn’t screaming over the soundtrack as the constantly annoying Donkey character. If there’s one thing I can point to in order to quickly sum up everything I hate about modern family films, an anti-Pixar if you will, it’s Shrek.
Plus, every second this movie isn’t being actively annoying, it’s just being boring. The Lord of the Rings movies have been famously criticized for being about nothing more than people walking places, but Shrek is a movie that’s just about cartoon characters walking places, with far less exciting things happening to them along the way, and horrible musical interludes.
There’s the putrid original song performed by Robin Hood and his men that accomplishes nothing but making you appreciate how well Disney does animated musicals, a terrible sing-along to a Smash Mouth cover of “I’m a Believer,” which may be the most annoying thing ever recorded, and even a scene where you have to sit through the entirety of that Rufus Wainwright cover of “Hallelujah,” probably the most overdone soundtrack song of all time. I can think of no Hell more unholy than having a toddler who demands to watch Shrek over and over again.
Why is So, I Married an Axe Murderer Underpraised?
The thing about So, I Married an Axe Murderer that I respond most strongly to is that it works on more levels than just as a goofy comedy. This is maybe the only time in Meyers’ career where he made a real movie that didn’t just feel like an extended sketch. It fully utilizes its San Francisco setting, working as a great travelogue for the city and using the surrounding culture to immerse itself in the hipster milieu of the early 90s. And it actually works pretty well as a thriller as well. Throughout the whole film the mystery of whether or not Meyers’ new love is actually a serial killer keeps building, and as he gets put in situations that are more and more dangerous, real tension starts to be generated. It gives the viewer something to hang their hat on other than just potential laughs.
So, I Married an Axe Murderer is underpraised because it’s chock-full of quotable lines, and though I’ve been trying to keep many of them alive over the years, it’s an uphill battle when you throw then out there any nobody responds. Any time I get a chance to take advantage of a horrific wound by sticking it in somebody’s face and saying, “Mom, can you call the school nurse?” it makes me smile. Any time someone is discussing breakfast cereals, I can’t help but sneak in a, “I care for Apple Jacks a great deal,” which inevitably gets no reaction. Heck, I can even pull out obvious ones like yelling, “Show her the picture of *fillintheblank* when he shit his pants at Niagara Falls!” whenever someone brings a new girlfriend around, and nobody knows what I’m talking about. This is a problem that needs to be rectified.
Even if you hate Mike Meyers, Axe Murderer is a movie that should be given another look for its cameos alone. There’s a dynamite scene where Phil Hartman shows up and gives an inappropriate tour of Alcatraz, Michael Richards plays a callous journalist riffing on his paper’s obituaries, Steven Wright plays a less than competent pilot, Alan Arkin is an overly sensitive police chief, and they even cram in an excuse for Charles Grodin to do his guy-being-put-out routine. All killer bits, lost to the sands of time.
Evening the Odds
Here you’ve got two comedies that rely heavily on Mike Meyers doing a Scottish accent to get their laughs. One of them was a pretty big bomb, but then 8 years later the second was a huge success. What’s the difference? Is Shrek really that much funnier than So, I Married an Axe Murderer? I think Meyers’ problem just might be that he’s too pale and goofy-looking to succeed at doing anything other than wearing silly wigs and playing cartoon characters, live action or otherwise.
Axe Murderer is a legitimately funny movie with a lot of good stuff in it, but even when a fan like myself watches it I can’t stop staring at Meyers’ floppy 90s hair, or wonder why we spend so much time seeing him prance around in various states of not-played-for-humor undress. It was one thing seeing his tighty-whities in the Wayne’s World sequel – that was the character of Wayne being goofy. Here it’s a little much. Put the pasty paleness away Mike, we’re all much more comfortable with you as a big green monster.