Recommendation: Not good, not bad. My Spy tries to do too much and suffers because of it. But a good cast salvage a bit of watchability. 5.5/10,
IMDB Synopsis: A hardened CIA operative finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl, having been sent undercover to surveil her family.
The idea of juxtaposing a brooding, brutish type with a precocious, smart mouthed kid is not new. True Grit, Kindergarten Cop, Logan, Deadpool 2, Terminator 2… And the latest iteration is the Dave Bautista vehicle, My Spy. The premise is tried and true. The actors—which include Bautista, a campy Kristen Schaal, and the wonderful Chloe Coleman—are charismatic. But the film doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Is it a globetrotting spy thriller? Is it a cutesy buddy comedy? Heartfelt drama about the perils of family? Popcorn action flick? The answer is kind of, to all of those questions. And unfortunately, the film would be better served if it picked a lane.
JJ (Bautista) is a CIA operative, who is tracking down a WMD MacGuffin, but fails in finding the mastermind behind the arms deal. It’s clear he’s great at the action spy stuff. The fighting, the gunplay, being cool under pressure. But his CIA boss David Kim (Ken Jeong) sees is a blunt instrument whose lacking the finely tuned tools of spycraft. So as a demotion, he’s sent to Chicago to surveil a family who are loosely linked to the MacGuffin. In tow is CIA tech wiz and JJ fanboy, Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), who provides a nice layer of smart comedic juxtaposition to Bautista’s brand of awkward and physical comedy. Their targets are a mother and daughter, and under strict orders, are to not interact with.
The mother Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) is an overworked ER nurse who is just getting used to be recently widowed and a single parent. Her daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman) is a whip smart 9-year-old who is having a hard time adjusting to Chicago from their former home in Paris. There’s no plot subversion here, as predictably Bautista gets involved. He is blackmailed by Sophie into becoming a chaperone, parental stand-in, and spy tutor. And as he becomes a part of Sophie’s life, he is ingratiated with Kate, who he becomes romantically linked. The entire middle act is a predictable, if likable, exercise use in character growth. JJ learns how to open up and let people in his life again, Sophie gets a surrogate father figure (and possible actual father), and Kate can move past her husband’s death. Bobbi, however, is mostly ignored in a misstep for the film.
JJ is outed as a spy, eroding all trust between himself and Kate. But don’t dwell too long as the bad guys from act one have found the MacGuffin, in Kate and Sophie’s possession. And during the perfunctory final climactic action sequence that isn’t that flashy, the film’s issue becomes apparent. Predictability aside, it’s trying to do too much. The action set pieces are fairly dull, the emotional arcs of its characters are blunted because of the final action sequence being shoehorned in, and any cool spycraft is undercut by the cutesy JJ-Sophie stuff.
This isn’t to say that My Spy is bad. It’s a competently made film with very likable actors. But the thinly written and overstuffed script don’t do anyone any favors. It might work for kids yet it certainly won’t completely work for parents. There are a lot worse genre films out there, unfortunately, there’s a lot better, too.
Find it here on Amazon.
Highlights: Bautista doing the Whip and Nae Nae is almost worth watching the movie for.
MVP: Chloe Coleman acts way above her belt here. Hopefully she’ll get some work out of this.
Director: Peter Segal
Studio: STX // Release date: June 26, 2020 (Amazon)