Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer
Only one piece of pop culture has the distinction of being nominated twice for April Fools' Week: Bill Cosby's Leonard Part 6. A movie so bad that Cosby himself attempted to disown it, Lp6 sticks out like a thorn in Bill's resume, and no matter how hard he tries to live it down, it will never go away. In the second of two Leonard essays, Phoebe Raven instructs the unenlightened masses on Leonard's undiscovered genius.
A note from the nominator, Stephen Kondracki:
Leonard Part 6 is one of the most unique experiences in modern film. It occupies so many levels of funny and unfunny that it's possibly a masterpiece, possibly the worst thing anyone has ever spent money to create. I have to admit, the reason why I have nominated this movie is because I literally don't know how to feel about it. Part of me wants to love it unconditionally for it's absurdity. Part of me wants to physically injure the friend who made me watch it. So to the (un)lucky reviewer I ask: "Seriously, what's the deal with this movie?"
Leonard Part 6: What’s Not to Like?
By Phoebe Raven
In 1987 – a year now woefully mostly remembered for the first appearance of The Simpsons on The Tracy Ullman Show – the brilliant adventures of CIA spy Leonard Parker were finally brought to conclusion in a show of Shakespearian glory in the movie Leonard Part 6. This award-winning drama has undeservedly sunken into oblivion. This is utterly incomprehensible, given the fact that it is everything a movie should be. It has it all, from struggling romance to mind-boggling explosions. Centered around the all-American hero and his best buddy – a British butler – it tells a compelling moral story about the dangers of communism.
Unfortunately the previous parts of Leonard’s adventures were all lost under mysterious circumstances, and even Part 6 can only be obtained on DVD, since TV distribution rights remain under wraps. I can only guess at the artistic merits of the first five parts, but if Part 6 is any indication, they must have been as timeless and uplifting as the conclusion of the series.
In times like ours, where the world is at splits (to put it mildly) about nonrenewable resources like oil and water (as well as religious issues of every kind), a movie like Leonard Part 6 rings truer than many films produced today. Its makers – most notably Bill Cosby, who wrote, produced and starred in the movie and to this day remains enthusiastic about it – accurately foresaw the lows the world would come to if one race, nation or religion suppresses another one, and so the film tells the tale of how to overcome this oppression and how to be a good parent on top of it.
When we come into the plot of Leonard Part 6, Leonard Parker is actually in retirement from his former job as a spy for the CIA, yet a national security crisis leaves his former bosses no choice but to make Leonard come back for one last assignment. To make sure he is really up for this important job seven years after he retired, they send an assassin to the restaurant Leonard now owns and manages, figuring that if Leonard cannot survive the assassin’s attack, then he is not the right man for the job. In one of the finest shoot-outs to be put on screen in decades in the restaurant’s kitchen, Leonard not only outsmarts the assassin, but he also manages to trick him into assassinating himself, thus allowing him to enter the CIA operating room with confidence (and his prey) in tow.
The national crisis the CIA needs him for is as follows: in an attempt to free all the enslaved animals, which have been subjugated by mankind for millions of years, environmentalist and vegetarian Medusa Johnson has not only created a device which lets her control animals’ minds and turn them into human-killing monsters, she also figured out a way to manipulate the water of the whole California Bay Area so that all animals that drink it become conscious of their enslavement and rebel against it. Countless CIA undercover agents have already fallen victim to her animal assassins, and there is no telling what would happen if she were to succeed in poisoning the Bay Area water. Leonard simply has to stop her.
When in the third act Medusa kidnaps Leonard’s estranged wife on top of all her other mischief, the case becomes personal for Leonard, who is still madly in love with her, and also needs her help to straighten out things with their daughter, who has decided to become an actress and is engaged to a theater director so old he could be her grandfather.
Luckily, Leonard can count on the help of his loyal butler Frayn, who stirringly recites the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V before Leonard goes into battle and equips him with gadgets even Batman would be jealous of. Also assisting Leonard is his trusted mystic Nurse Carvalho, who provides him with a way out of even the biggest predicament.
Assured of this kind of back-up and armed to the teeth, Leonard finally succeeds in defeating Medusa and her vegetarian soldiers by blowing her Factory of Evil to bits and pieces, all the while freeing all the animals she had kept locked up inside for her big attack. (Apparently she wasn’t so animal-friendly after all.)
The intricacies of this blazing victory (literally, it involves a lot of flames) are impossible to describe in detail, they are so intricate and well-thought-out. Leonard’s kidnapped wife plays a big part in helping him defeat Medusa, a fact that reunites the estranged couple and gives us an ending that is as hilarious as it is heartfelt and touching.
Perhaps the most notable scene in Leonard’s battle against Medusa is the gorgeously choreographed fight against her masked vegetarians in the second act, which can easily be compared to the highly stylized fight sequences in such modern masterpieces as Kill Bill or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and impressively demonstrates that Leonard truly is the best of his trade.
Another noteworthy aspect of Leonard Part 6 are the special effects that are used to convincingly depict such things as Leonard riding on the back of an ostrich and jumping off the exploding factory, or the burning skin of the vegetarian soldiers when they come into contact with meat. Six years after Leonard Part 6 provided the preliminary work in the area of special effects, Steven Spielberg’s SFX masterpiece Jurassic Park would benefit greatly from it, especially in the area of animal animation, and we all know where special effects went from there. (Do I even have to mention the amazing work WETA does these days, or the debt that they owe to Lp6?)
There simply isn’t enough room here to mention all the marvelous elements that effortlessly combine in Leonard Part 6. From the witty dialog that is quotable without end (something geeks always love), to the heartwarming chats Leonard has with his daughter about finding your purpose in life. From the deliciously choreographed action sequences, to the in-depth portrayal of even the minor characters.
To drive home my point, let me quote another pop culture icon and say: “What’s not to like? Custard, good. Jam, GOOD. Meat, GOOOOOOOD!” (The food items here are metaphorically standing in for the delicious film elements I have just mentioned.)
Leonard Part 6 truly has it all: a moral center, a likable hero portrayed by none other than America’s darling Bill Cosby, action sequences for the boys and romantic reunions for the girls.
As a special treat let me leave you with a short collection of a few of the many high points of the movie so you can see for yourself how truly relevant this movie still is today.
Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer
Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.