The Fat Spy

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A mostly-deserted island, which is believed to be the home to the fountain of youth, is off the coast of Florida. The island gets some visitors in the form of a teenage boy band, “the Wild Ones”, and their gang of swimsuit-clad young people, who head there in a crowded powerboat ostensibly for a scavenger hunt. However, they spend about half their screen time crooning to each other, or dancing on the beach.

The island’s wealthy owner, Wellington (Brian Donlevy) recruits his blonde bombshell daughter, Junior (Jayne Mansfield), to remove the teenagers from the island. Junior is eager to see her love interest (and the island’s only resident), rotund toupee-wearing botanist Irving (Jack E. Leonard). However, Irving is more interested in flowers and his bicycle than in the amorous Junior. Wellington asks Irving to spy on the teenagers, which he does by donning a sweatshirt that reads “Fink University”, and “getting their trust” by joining them in dancing the Turtle. Meanwhile, Irving’s twin brother Herman (also Jack E. Leonard, without a toupee), Wellington’s trusted employee, plots with his love interest, the scheming harridan Camille Salamander (Phyllis Diller) to find the fountain of youth first.


Before I begin my review of The Fat Spy, please join me in honoring the birthday of the late Jayne Mansfield, who would be turning 81 on Saturday. Now, this film is another of those pictures at the end of Jayne’s career that not many people remember. As a matter of fact, some try to forget, but as I learned with a couple of her other films, these can actually be better than people give them credit for. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that is this case with this picture.

What is this about?

This over-the-top send-up of 1960s musical beach movies features a group of teenagers seeking the legendary Fountain of Youth on an island off Florida owned by a cosmetics magnate, who sends his daughter (Jayne Mansfield) to thwart their plans. Throw in some mermaids, spies, double-crosses and groovy music from The Wild Ones, and you’ve got a recipe for an unrelentingly campy good time.

What did I like?

Jayne. The buxom, blonde goddess really plays up that airhead character many of her contemporaries *COUGH* Marilyn Monroe *COUGH* had made so popular. You would think this would become grating and be too much to handle, but given the character and all the other randomosity going around, it really made her very likable. Of course, there is also a towel scene that will make you love her, too!

Title character. For some reason, I thought the titular fat spy was going to be Jayne. At the time of this release, she had been fluctuating in her weight, especially after giving birth to her children. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case and the fat spy is actually played by comedy legend Jack E. Leonard, who also plays his “evil” twin brother. His comedic timing and the humor he brings to both brothers is amazing. The brothers are totally opposite of each other, and so is the way Leonard portrays their sense of humor. One is a bumbling idiot and the other is more of the mean and sarcastic type.

At the beach. This is advertised as a campy beach parody and that is exactly what it is. Had I not watched a few beach movies, I don’t believe I would have seen the parody angle, but having watched some of those Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon flicks, I see what the source material was. A bunch of kids come to the beach, start to dance around showing lots of skin, next thing you know they are involved in some plot on the island, insert love story, story with the adults, and then the happy ending. Formulaic, yes, but it worked for the time and was easy picking to be…um…picked on.

What didn’t I like?

Music. I love musicals, as can be seen if you go through my categories. That being said, in musicals, the songs make sense and are relevant to the story. Not the case with this film, though, as these songs are more random than the cutaways on Family Guy. Also, every chance they get, someone is singing, but for what reason? I just didn’t get it and felt like these songs were just filler and nothing more.

Connection. I’m a simple guy. I don’t really require much in the way of deep plots and such, but I do need to have a story that connects, which this film does not. One minute we’re watching teen frolicking, the next there is some conspiracy regarding the Fountain of Youth, and then there is something about a mermaid that is totally looked over. Had these things had some kind of connection, then I wouldn’t mind, but the sheer randomness of this film confused me. It almost seemed as if they wanted this to be a series of skits but at the last-minute changed it to one “cohesive” story.

Movie or show. As the film progresses, every now and then we get a title card. Going into the final act, it seems as if we get these as much as if this was a silent film. I was fine with this until it just became too much. Is this a movie or a TV show? I know the budget couldn’t have been very large for this flick, but that just made it look cheaper than it already was.

So, what is my final verdict on The Fat Spy? Well, I would say that I was disappointed, but that would be a lie. I didn’t go into this film with high expectations. As a matter of fact, they were very low, so it would be hard for me to come out of this disappointed. For me being a Jayne fan, I could have done with more of her and less of the teens, but at least this isn’t false advertising, unlike Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Do I recommend this? Not really. Unless you’re like me and want to see all of Jayne’s films, there is no reason to acknowledge this even exits.

2 out of 5 stars


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