So I Married an Axe Murder was a staple of my middle school life. It was a staple for those attending Coronado Middle School. It was a staple of people named Zitzelman in the 90s. Outside of Zitelmans and people of the 92118 zip-code, I have zero clue if this movie made an impact.
Yet, something tells me it must have. For a few years, you couldn’t turn on HBO without it being on some time that day. Along with that early string of Jim Carrey smashes (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb & Dumber), I can’t think of another comedy that spent more time in that cycle. It’s a movie with no legacy whatsoever though. Coming amidst star Mike Myers’ successful transition from television to big screen, and in the middle of a pair of Wayne’s World movies, it seems be entirely forgotten by the world. Perhaps it’s because the character was, even given the title, rather normal. Myers isn’t a music junkie, super spy, plotter of evil or cat in some type of hat. There are – mostly – no fat-suits, wigs or set ups for sequels. So I Married an Axe Murderer just was and then it wasn’t.
But it meant something to me dammit and it’s worth seeing if this dark comedy is worth not just remembering, but being celebrated and quoted endlessly by Zitzelmans once more.
Released on July 30th, 1993, So I Married an Axe Murderer ranked, appropriately enough, as #100 for the year at the box-office, between cult classics Strictly Ballroom and Army of Darkness, where it made a shade over $11 million. Myers stars as Charlie, a poet living in San Francisco whose love-life is persistent and brief. Charlie doesn’t so much love them and leave them as he is anxious to stay with them. Then he meets Harriet (Nancy Travis), a local butcher that he hits it off with quickly. Things are going well until clues arise that Harriet might in fact be a serial killer; as happens sometimes.
With the help of his best friend and cop (Anthony LaPaglia), Charlie must then figure out whether it’s merely more relationship paranoia or if his life really is in danger.
Even though this was Myers working sans bald-caps or caked in make-up, the primary recall of Axe Murderer is Myers doing double-duty as Charlie’s father Stuart. A profoundly Scottish man, Stuart spouted conspiracies and lobbed insults at family members whom happen to have ludicrously large noggins. These scenes were the primary source of the aforementioned quoting, and perhaps its popularity was what spurred on Myers to go further down that rabbit-hole.
The rest of the movie is a bit of a blur. Myers’ Charlie does recites some poetry where he goes, “Whoa man! Whoa! Man. Whoooooooa Man.” There are large coffees. Amanda Plummer and Charles Grodin show up at some point.
What Myers does in the majority of his screen-time, be it romancing or fretting; no clue. Was it bland? Was it too broad? For the life of me I can’t think of a single thing he does.
Did I stop having So I Married an Axe Murderer a part of my life because I was no longer a kid or was it something more? Maybe there’s a reason Myers never went to this well again. Maybe there’s a reason I never, not once, enjoyed Nancy Travis in anything after this film. I believe Myers is a person whose horrid films have drastically overshadowed his best efforts and that this is perchance one said efforts.
Mike Myers sports one of the all-time bad haircuts in So I Married an Axe Murderer. Floppy, weirdly combed and too long in the back; it’s the worst. I say this as a person whom often has had the same haircut; fuck Mike. That is one awful fucking haircut.
As for the film, it’s descent into the world of forgotten movies makes sense. Never quite finding a tone and anchored to a lead performance that is too manic for its own good, Axe Murderer is a ho-hum comedy, which I suppose made it perfect for the HBO and basic-cable slot it managed for a few years. It’s the kind of movie you wouldn’t mind having on for a few minutes while unloading the dishwasher, before looking for something worthwhile to watch.
Let’s begin with Myers, who is almost visibly uncomfortable in the lead part. Occasionally funny for a beat or two, Myers calls to mind your friend who is always on and doing shtick. You know, the one that makes you laugh for a bit until you realize he’s going to tell the same jokes to the next person that enters the room. In his first scene, Myers’ Charlie is the recipient of an obnoxiously large – ie not large anymore – cup of coffee/espresso/I drink soda, I am not positive what the hell it is in fact. Myers makes a comment about its size before shouting, “Hello!!!” This will be repeated. Many. A. Time. It’s either an astute bit of characterization by screenwriter Robbie Fox (In the Army Now) or Myers injecting his own massive persona into the frame. Whatever it is, getting ready to hear, “Hello!!!” a lot.
Which is basically the problem with the movie. Charlie is neither over-the-top enough as a person to be a compellingly ludicrous lead nor sufficiently normal to work as an everyman. When trying to woo his could-be new girlfriend, he sports some accents, shouts and pretends to have a limb severed. He’s a – maybe – paid beat poet, who at one point mentions having insurance. Is the beat poet thing his job? Do cafes provide insurance for these stooges?
Myers attempt to be less of a “Saturday Night Live” character never takes hold. That’s not to say funny bit aren’t here or there. When the make-up comes on and he portrays Charlie’s slightly drunken, giddily mean father Stuart, things, as I recalled, pick up. His relentless mocking of one family member’s cranium size still clicks, from the moment he claims the boy will be “Crying himself to sleep tonight on his huge pillow” or when Stuart merely decides to call the kid, “Head!”
Then all things 90s make an appearance. We have some Spin Doctors here and a sampling of Soul Asylum there. That “There She Goes” song is heard so often you’d think director Thomas Schlamme lost a bet. The late Phil Hartman steals a second as an unnerving Alcatraz tour guide. Michael Richards pop in for a second, as do the unforgettably alien eyes of Debi Mazar, making their second appearance alongside Empire Records alum LaPaglia in a “Was I Nuts” selection. The LaPaglia side-plot is perhaps the best thread of Axe Murderer. As a cop bored out of his mind with paperwork and no car-chases, LaPaglia begs for his police captain (a terrific Alan Arkin) to be mean and tear him a new one now and again. When discussing being dragged into the commissioner’s office to explain a case gone wrong, Arkin pleasantly and consolingly states that they don’t have a commissioner to report to. Instead, there is a quorum of different officials, some elected and others not, to bring up issues with. LaPaglia’s bewildered reaction is priceless. Later, Arkin chews into him for digging his nose into murder investigation, which the good-natured captain follows with fretting. As LaPaglia begins to run off to help Charlie, Arkin, with great concern, asks, “Was it too much with the ethnic slurs?”
So I Married an Axe Murderer has the legacy it, basically, deserves. It doesn’t bare the rich, satirical nature of either Wayne’s World picture. Plus, while the Austin Powers quickly grew obnoxious and only led to levels of make-up obsession not seen outside of Eddie Murphy, the original movie remains a rather joyous romp. So I Married an Axe Murderer is your so-so, run-of-the-mill comedy. That it stars an actor out of his element, in part because he’s not willing to give up his usual routine, is the only real noteworthy facet.