All The Queen's Men

The discovery and capture of German "enigma machines" by British forces in WWII was considered a major turning point, allowing allied intelligence to intercept encoded messages and anticipate the enemy's next move. More than half a century later, Stefan Ruzowitzky's stultifying adventure-comedy All The Queen's Men wonders what might have happened had the hijinks been a little wackier. A cheap, Europudding production toplined by Matt LeBlanc, the most cursed of the cinematically luckless Friends cast, the film gives new hope to bad ideas the world over: If a high-heeled WWII drag farce starring LeBlanc and Eddie Izzard can get made, then keep those monkeys chained to their typewriters. Things go awry right from the opening-credits sequence, which finds American spy LeBlanc posing as a Nazi officer to nab his first enigma machine, then escaping via a tank-switcheroo routine unworthy of Benny Hill. For reasons too nonsensical to explain, the machine is destroyed, and the botched operation lands LeBlanc a short stint in military prison, where his superior officers tap him for an extremely special assignment. According to intelligence reports, more enigma machines are being manufactured in a secret facility outside Berlin; the only catch is that the employees are exclusively women. In order to infiltrate the facility, LeBlanc and a motley team of screw-ups--including David Birkin as a closeted whiz kid who speaks eight languages, James Cosmo as an uptight British officer, and Izzard as a civilian drag artist--must sneak by the Nazis in dresses, wigs, and ruby-red lipstick. Once airdropped into the city, they're aided by sexy double agent Nicolette Krebitz, whose chief narrative function is to assure the audience that LeBlanc is all man. No matter how gracefully they sway their hips, three of the four allied spies are clearly recognizable as men from within 100 yards, a problem the film tries to brush off by calling their mannish features typical, or at least stereotypical, of German women. Not since The Country Bears has the general populace been so willfully oblivious to the difference between normal human beings and a group of giant talking bear-men; in a few scenes, a wailing German orphan clings to the burliest impostor as if he were her long-lost mother. On top of other affronts to comedy, most notably Udo Kier as a Nazi officer who's into the rough stuff, Ruzowitzky (The Inheritors) has the gall to salute its allied heroes and sentimentalize the poor children set adrift in his Styrofoam rubble. The comedy in All The Queen's Men is dispiriting enough without a reminder that the war is going on behind it.

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