Don’t expect to see gobs of gore in TriStar’s “So I Married an Axe Murderer.” The comedy is a tres hip slice of life about the dilemma of marital commitment with just a pinch of Hitchcock providing the cutting edge. Fueled by an anarchic style and a winning cast, it looks like an appealing commercial prospect perfectly aimed at the twentysomething crowd.
The San Francisco-set yarn finds poet Charlie Mackenzie (Mike Myers) glibly fashioning a verse (supported by multimedia trappings) concerning his umpteenth failed relationship. Both his weird Scottish family and his best friend Tony (Anthony LaPaglia) understand Charlie’s fear of commitment is irrational. In fact, he’s desperately in need of a strong centering influence.
By chance, he catches sight of Harriet Michaels (Nancy Travis), a butcher at the not-too-elegant Meats of the World. Quicker than you can say “hae ye any haggis,” they are kindred souls.
However, Charlie’s evasive pattern is soon in play. He begins to believe that Harriet might be an uncaught husband killer who is a reigning queen of the tabloids.
Is it just paranoia or is the young versifier apt to be the mystery killer’s next statistic?
Robbie Fox’s screenplay finds a telling modern metaphor linking society’s physical and emotional perils. The emphasis is decidedly on the latter but the script never abandons hope that the unkindest cut might also be lethal.
Director Thomas Schlamme milks the ambiguity pretty much for all its worth. Despite a few narrative lulls and some humor in questionable taste, the film has an oddball spirit of invention in both its characters and situations. It aspires to the deft deadpan style of Bill Forsyth with splashes of Monty Python and Grand Guignol. With such a diverse mix, it’s not surprising a few ingredients fail to jell.
As both Charlie and his father Stuart, Myers gets an opportunity to display a variety of personae. His Scottish elder comes off as the more assured, but his vulnerable leading man is pretty convincing.
Travis, as Harriet, pulls off an acting sleight-of-hand that keeps the audience guessing whether she wielded the cleaver away from the shop. She is gracefully disarming, with enough intelligence to suggest another agenda.
The supporting cast is delightfully colorful, ranging from Amanda Plummer as Harriet’s weird sister to Brenda Fricker as Charlie’s slightly dotty mom. LaPaglia displays comic flair as the lead’s slightly thick cop buddy and Alan Arkin is brilliantly effective in an uncredited role as LaPaglia’s superior.
“So I Married an Axe Murderer” may have to dodge some angry Scotsmen but otherwise should click with those looking for slightly upscale humor that’s not averse to a few well-placed cheap shots. It’s a delightful and unexpected surprise.