My Spy Review

My Spy
After a job gone wrong, CIA agent JJ (Dave Bautista) and his tech support Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) are sent on a low-stakes surveillance mission, spying on nurse Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her nine-year-old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman). When the youngster immediately uncovers their operation, she blackmails JJ into teaching her his spy tricks.

by Ben Travis |
Published on
Release Date:

13 Mar 2020

Original Title:

My Spy

There comes a point in the career of every Hollywood hardman when they swap bruising action for family-friendly fish-out-of-water comedy, inevitably sharing the screen with a cutesy kid sure to run rings around them. Arnie had Kindergarten Cop and Jingle All The Way. Dwayne Johnson had The Game Plan. Vin Diesel had The Pacifier. Now it’s the turn of Dave Bautista in My Spy, playing a CIA agent whose undercover mission to surveil a mother and daughter (in some ways as creepy as it sounds) will, of course, end up teaching him some valuable lessons about love, friendship, and family values along the way.

My Spy

Bautista has long proved talented at delivering laughs as Guardians Of The Galaxy’s deadpan Drax – which makes it all the more disappointing that My Spy largely fails to flex his comic muscles. Here he’s JJ, a spy who can take out a room of Russian goons single-handedly, but whose personal relationships extend as far as a beloved fish called Blueberry. When Sophie (Coleman), the young girl he’s spying on – her uncle is a criminal wrapped up in some dodgy dealings – immediately rumbles his efforts, she turns the tables and forces him to become her new playground muscle, personal chauffeur, and spy teacher.

Its broad, obvious gags and saccharine tone skews pretty young, but a smattering of darker jokes feel uncomfortably at odds with the rest of the PG antics.

It’s a solid set-up, but despite some fun ideas (JJ gives Sophie spy masterclasses in kiss-off lines and walking away from explosions without turning around) it struggles to raise any real laughs, devolving into a series of largely unsatisfying sketches with underwhelming punchlines. Coleman is game, but the comic chemistry between her and Bautista never quite sings, the central duo let down by irritating supporting characters (Kristen Schaal as JJ’s partner, herself desperate to get some fieldwork, Ken Jeong as his boss) and gags that rely on lazy stereotypes.

There are moments of promise – there’s a sweetness in JJ’s burgeoning romance with Sophie’s mum Kate (Fitz-Henley), and the unexpected sight of Dave Bautista doing the Whip/Nae Nae to Cardi B’s ‘I Like It’. But the film as a whole is never quite as fun as that sounds, constantly battling with drab visuals, predictable comic beats, and thin-feeling scenes. Its final reel even has the audacity to shamelessly rip off Raiders Of The Lost Ark while pointing out that it’s ripping off Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

My Spy’s biggest affliction is an inconsistency of tone. For the most part, its broad, obvious gags and saccharine tone skews pretty young, in keeping with its nine-year-old co-lead character. But a smattering of darker jokes and moments of occasionally punchy violence feel uncomfortably at odds with the rest of the PG antics, earning it a 12A rating. The result, frustratingly, is a family movie that doesn’t feel totally suited to any member of the family.

This big-spy-meets-little-kid comedy isn’t funny enough for teens, but not really suitable for younger viewers either.
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