Mike Myers’ Funniest Movie Is Now Streaming
Mike Myers' single funniest movie seemingly scared him off another role like it for years, and it is now streaming.
Back in the 1990s, Mike Myers was the hottest thing in comedy. He had blown up on Saturday Night Live in a huge way, swiftly becoming the breakout star of an SNL cast for the ages that included Phil Hartman, Chris Rock, and Chris Farley. He had an enormously huge debut film with the feature adaptation of his signature sketch Wayne’s World, which grossed $183 million dollars at the box office. The world was wide open for Mike Myers. He saw an opportunity to mix things up at what would turn out to be perhaps the apex of his powers, and he took it. His second starring film was a romantic comedy titled So I Married an Axe Murder, which is now streaming on Hulu. It is Mike Myers’ single funniest film and it absolutely tanked at the box office.
So I Married an Axe Murderer stars Mike Myers as a San Francisco spoken-word poet named Charlie, whose main subject of dramatic, jazz-driven coffeehouse beat poetry seems to be his inability to commit to a romantic partner. We are introduced to Charlie as he does some classic Mike Myers schtick, gawking over the size of a large cappuccino in a way that really, really lets you know it is 1993. Mike Myers quickly meets local butcher Harriet (Nancy Travis) in his search for haggis for his broadly Scottish parents, one of whom is also played by Mike Myers in layers of makeup, huge glasses, and the accent that Shrek would one day make famous.
After the meet-cute, Mike Myers and Nancy Travis begin dating, eventually move in together, break up and get back together, and finally get married. It is pretty much the standard romantic comedy stuff, except that Mike Myers is slowly consumed with the notion that his girlfriend might be an ax-murdering serial killer dubbed “Mrs. X” who moves around the country marrying men and then dispatching them.
It is an inspired, dark twist on a genre that often relies on cliches. The original script was written by Robbie Fox (based on an idea formed by him and producer Robert N. Fried, who would go on to marry Nancy Travis), and heavily rewritten by Mike Myers and Neil Mullarkey. Apparently, there was an argument between Mike Myers and Robbie Fox about writing credit, which eventually led to Writers Guild of America arbitration and sole credit for Fox. This was also the beginning of Mike Myers’ reputation for power struggles and control freak tendencies; director Thomas Schlamme later acknowledged the two had clashed during production but praised Mike Myers for his “total commitment” to the film.
Some of Mike Myers’ purported desire for control over So I Married an Axe Murderer was doubtless because he was moving into uncertain territory. Much of the film reads as sketch comedy (particularly the scenes of Myers as an enormously Scottish father), but he was being presented to audiences as much as a potential romantic leading man as a comedian. While Mike Myers nails the comedic desperation of scenes in which you can see the fear and paranoia that his radiant, awesome girlfriend might actually be trying to murder him, he has great chemistry with Nancy Travis. He would never really return to attempt this kind of role again, which is a pity in hindsight.
Much of So I Married an Axe Murderer is an acidic comic take on how people can let their petty fear of commitment sabotage their romantic lives, and it succeeds at that. The heightening of Mike Myers’ suspicions as the movie goes on turns him into a screaming mess, while objectively nothing really should make him believe his girlfriend is a serial killer. But the real delight and humor of So I Married an Axe Murderer is the cameos from various comedy legends that show up for a scene, light the world on fire, then depart. There is deadpan comic master Steven Wright as a way-too-calm airplane pilot. There is Seinfeld’s Michael Richards freaking out at an office after making one too many gallows jokes. Best of all, there is Phil Hartman as an Alcatraz Prison tour guide with the darkest, most violent stories that he demands you pay close attention to.
So I Married an Axe Murderer grossed a little over $11 million at the box office. Coming off a $20 million budget (and the expectations raised by the success of Wayne’s World), it apparently was enough to scare Mike Myers off even semi-serious roles. It did not fare much better critically, but the movie is the undersung gem in all of the comedian’s career. Fortunately, you find out for yourself on Hulu now.