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.
Stars: Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Kristen Schaal, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Ken Jeong, Devere Rogers, Greg Bryk
Director: Peter Segal
Running Length: 99 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: The last movie I had on my schedule to see in theaters before the pandemic shut everything down was My Spy and to be honest it was a film I was considering skipping all together. Sometimes you just have to say no to movies you don’t think you’ll like, right? I know that makes me sound less like the well-rounded critic I profess to be but if you are going in with some preconceived notion that predetermines you to not like the film, you aren’t going to give the movie a fair shot…and that’s almost worse, right? I offer this up at the beginning of my review for My Spy because when the film was eventually snapped up by Amazon to be released via the streaming service and an opportunity to review it at home came up – I was desperate for a comedy to watch and accepted the mission with little reservation.
Again, dear reader, I say to you that The MN Movie Man is not infallible and I’m not sure if my craving for a laugh overcame my critical eye or what but I found My Spy to be the kind of easy to digest fun that is a rare treat to enjoy. It’s a harmless endeavor that showcases the continued appeal of Dave Bautista and makes a stronger case for the wrestler turned actor to keep headlining projects that show him flexing not only his muscles but his comedic chops. Further, bypassing a theatrical release and going straight to streaming was the best thing that could have happened to My Spy because it gives the film a fighting chance to be seen/enjoyed by more than just the target family audience…which it’s not even a great fit for.
Freshman CIA agent JJ (Bautista, Skyfall) biffs a major weapons trade as the film opens, a big blunder that doesn’t sit well with his boss (Ken Jeong, Crazy Rich Asians, in his umpteenth iteration of the perpetually annoyed authority figure role) who quickly busts him down to a low impact stakeout in Chicago. Paired with nerdy tech Bobbi (Kristen Schaal, Toy Story 4) that has a fangirl crush on JJ’s agent status, the two are keeping an eye on the sister-in-law and niece of a French baddie trying to build a nuclear bomb. What should be an easy and uneventful assignment gets complicated when wiser-than-her-years fourth-grader Sophie (Chloe Coleman) figures out what JJ and Bobbi are up to. Blackmailing the CIA agent into being her friend, protector, and trainer in all things spy, Sophie puts the tough as nails JJ through the ringer and, not wanting to further get in trouble with the home office, he complies. Visiting school for career day, ice skating in the park, and making a good impression on her mom (Parisa Fitz-Henley) are all part of the bargain in balancing his double life, even as the danger of Sophie’s uncle draws closer.
Though it has its moments of originality here and here, I couldn’t help but think that the script from Erich Hoeber (The Meg) & Jon Hoeber (Battleship) reminded me an awful lot of Kindergarten Cop. Thankfully, it reminded of the good parts of that movie and director Peter Segal (Second Act) keeps things moving along with workmanlike efficiency. It’s largely a predictable affair but then again you likely didn’t go into My Spy thinking you’ll be surprised by the plot – it’s best to just fire it up and let it roll. It has some geniune moments of fun and they don’t all come at the expense of low brow jokes and gags — even the usually grating Schaal has a few potent zingers that land right on target.
The main thing that’s wrong with the film at the end of it all is that I’m not sure who the target audience is. Carrying a PG-13 rating and justly earning it thanks to violence and other content behooving some parental caution, this wouldn’t be a movie for families to enjoy in line with their PG movie night. It also wouldn’t be something I think would appeal to the Bautista base that know him from the Guardians of the Galaxy films. That leaves it in a strange limbo place where the audience will have to find it on their own which is why I think the streaming platform was the best place for it to debut. If you do choose My Spy (as a guilty pleasure watch or otherwise), do so with confidence because it’s far better than it looks and more entertaining than you’d think.