My Spy (United States, 2020)

April 17, 2020
A movie review by James Berardinelli
My Spy Poster

A look at director Peter Segal’s filmography doesn’t build confidence for My Spy. Titles like Tommy Boy, Nutty Professor 2, and Grudge Match set expectations at an appropriately low level. My Spy is one of those action/comedies that fails both in terms of action and comedy. For those looking for something positive, it can be said to feature  a generic but effective father/daughter-type bonding story in which a precocious nine-year-old melts the icy heart of a hulking CIA agent. We’ve seen this kind of thing before but it’s done with sufficient schmaltz to work on its own terms. Damning with faint praise? You betcha, but that’s all I have.

Apparently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wasn’t available to make this movie. Either that, or he read the script. Dave Baustista (best known as Drax the Destroyer in the MCU), who it seems is sometimes called on as a stand-in when his better-known ex-WWE compatriot isn’t available, brings similar (but less polished) qualities to the role. Like Johnson, his oversized form makes him a natural for parts like this. For this movie, he has wandered into Schwarzenegger/Kindergarten Kids territory: a fish-out-of-water story about the one danger a big, muscular guy isn’t prepared for: interacting with a little girl. Sadly, Bautista’s comedic abilities (shown to good effect in Guardians of the Galaxy) are wasted. His muscles are wasted. His ability to deliver dead-pan one-liners is wasted. And all the guys attacking his character get wasted. (The body count is shockingly high for what it being presented as a family film.)

To the extent that Bautista is a “big” name, he’s the only one in the film that fits the category. 11-year old Chloe Coleman, a TV veteran even at such a young age, is an effective foil for the big, burly man and their chemistry is such that it’s not hard to buy into the bond that develops between them. The two other women – Parisa Fitz-Henley, who plays Kate, the girl’s mother and a love interest for Bautista’s character, and Kristen Schaal as Bobbi, Bautista’s CIA partner – are stock characters lifted off the shelf. Ken Jeong’s David Kim is annoying and the resident bad guy, played by Greg Bryk, is lackluster.

The screenplay takes a generic situation and does nothing interesting with it. JJ (Bautista) and Bobbi have been assigned by their superior, Kim, to surveil the apartment of Sophie (Coleman) and her mom. The CIA suspects an international terrorist with connections to Kate might seek to make contact. Clumsy work by JJ and Bobbi allows Sophie to “make” them and, to avoid blowing the mission, JJ agrees to appease her with little “odd jobs” like taking her skating and going to school as her “special friend” to talk to her class. Predictably, a friendship develops between JJ and Sophie, a romance starts between JJ and Kate, and all hell breaks loose when Kate’s ex-brother-in-law shows up at her apartment looking for something.

For the most part, the screenplay writes itself and little attempt has been made to give it a unique or memorable identity. (It even has the audacity to rip off Raiders of the Lost Ark then, in a meta moment, comment on this.) Segal’s dedication to mediocrity is in evidence. This is a subpar motion picture offering little in the way of sustainable entertainment.

My Spy (United States, 2020)

Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Kristen Schaal, Greg Bryk, Ken Jeong
Screenplay: Erich Hoeber & Jon Hoeber
Cinematography: Larry Blanford
Music: Dominic Lewis
U.S. Distributor: STX Entertainment
Run Time: 1:39
U.S. Release Date: 2020-04-17
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity)
Genre: Action/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1