Review: Harmless family comedy 'My Spy' a fun romp
Courtesy of Amazon/STX
Big and macho tough guys standing opposite cute kiddos is a cinematic tactic used for decades. Whether it was Schwarzenegger in “Kindergarten Cop,” Burt Reynolds in “Cop and A Half,” or Vin Diesel in “The Pacifier” – it’s a proven formula that with the correct pairing, can still deliver the laughs. In “My Spy,” the bulky “Guardians of the Galaxy” standout Dave Bautista plays a CIA man whose career is in the trenches and gets a new outlook on life following an encounter with a clever nine-year old girl whose got an eye for espionage. “My Spy” is a harmless and passable PG13 family comedy anchored in part by Bautista’s charm and wit, but also benefits from the chemistry shared between his young co-star Chole Coleman (“Big Little Lies”).
The film – directed by Peter Segal – has bounced around the schedule quite a bit – (I remember seeing trailers in theaters last summer) – until it was eventually planted in March 2020 before being yanked amid the coronavirus pandemic. “My Spy” will now land directly on Amazon Prime Video where it feels right at home and should be a perfect choice for families post-Father’s Day.
The Bautista character is introduced with all the familiar characteristics: He’s JJ, a Special Forces soldier who’s now working undercover to help bring a ruthless arm dealer Victor Marquez (Greg Bryk) to justice. The opening mission obviously goes south quickly and JJ is sent to Chicago with Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) a tech nerd who’s obsessed with him (and is desperate for any laughs she can get) to spy on Marquez’s widowed sister-in-law Kate (Parisa Fitz), an ER nurse recently relocated from Paris.
It’s not long into this brisk 99-minute adventure before Kate’s brainy daughter Sophie (Coleman) uses her iPhone to trace a weird signal upstairs and stumbles upon JJ‘s entire operation. One of the bigger laughs that elevates “My Spy” is JJ’s quick responsiveness to situations that go bad and the first thing he suggests is to kill the kid.
After being talked down, he decides to cut a deal with the young sleuth, and in return for her silence, JJ will teach her the tricks of the trade: like how to walk away from explosions without turning around and what cool catchphrases to say when defeating a bad guy. My favorite gag belongs to the scene when Sophie is trained to beat a polygraph and Bautista’s cartoon facial expressions throughout the montage slapped a big smile on my face. I was surprised these familiar encounters worked on me. Hey, I’m only human.
Though the nuclear weapons plot that lingers in the background is, more or less, narrative glue to hold the weaker aspects of “My Spy” together (because there must be a corny bad guy to stop) and the forced romance between JJ and Kate is cheesy even by the already low standards this genre sets, Segal is able to generate a solid atmosphere for his two leads to effectively carry the picture, despite some of the action sequences feeling less than inspired.
“My Spy” isn’t trying to break the kid agent mold and as a family comedy (why this earned a PG13 rating seems counterproductive – it’s suitable for ages 7 and above) – it gets the job done. You won’t remember this film three weeks from now, though, I don’t think anyone was asking you too.
MY SPY will be available on Amazon Prime Video starting Friday June 26th