2020, PG-13, 103 mins.
Dave Bautista as JJ / Chloe Coleman as Sophie / Parisa Fitz-Henley as Kate / Kristen Schaal as Bobbi / Greg Bryk as Marquez / Ken Jeong
Directed by Peter Segal / Written by Erich and Jon Hoeber
There’s a moment in the new comedy MY SPY featuring star Dave Bautista shaking two school kids out of a tree...with his bare hands...while playing a game of hide and seek, and another with him camouflage hiding in a toy closet with a puppy to avoid detection.
was at this point when I realized that (a) Bautista is a really game
showman and is willing to make himself look cool or absurd when a
screenplay requires it and (b) this movie is much funnier than I
was expecting, considering that it's occupying a very overcrowded genre
that some would argue is on life support.
mean, the formula contained within MY SPY is as old as the hills.
The film's plot concerns a CIA agent that finds himself reluctantly
teaming up with an unusually clever child of a family that he and his
partner have been tasked with surveilling while
Of course, it goes without saying that the hulky action hero brute
will have his heart melted by the precocious nine-year-old and learn the
value of true family in the process while thwarting evil doers.
We've seen countless permutations of this formula play out time and
time again in other similar comedies over the years, with films like
KINDERGARTEN COP, COP AND A HALF, and THE
PACIFIER coming immediately to mind.
All of this has been done before, and some would easily argue
better, but that's not to say that MY SPY doesn't do a solid job in terms
of working within this genre.
It's a silly and unabashedly enjoyable espionage odd couple comedy,
which is made all the more appealing because of the easy going and
unforced chemistry between Bautista and his vastly smaller co-star.
SPY opens by introducing us to Bautista's beefy super spy wanna-be in JJ,
who manages to foul up things immensely during a botched mission overseas,
which angers his boss back home (Ken Jeong) to no end.
As punishment for his lackluster and careless actions, JJ is
demoted to petty surveillance duties with his new partner in Bobbi
(Kristen Schaal), more specifically to secretly watch over and monitor
Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), whose brother-in-law is a vile international
terrorist, Marquez (Greg Bryk), who wants to get his hands on a nuclear
This leads to JJ and Bobbi planting all sorts of tech in Kate's
apartment without her knowledge, but thankfully for her she has a
remarkably cunning daughter, Sophie (Chloe Coleman), who manages to find
out with relative ease what the devices are and where they're located
(using Goggle for an assist).
She busts JJ and Bobbi hilariously early in the game.
is one smart cookie.
She wisely records incriminating evidence with her iPhone of JJ's
mission, which would not only compromise it if leaked, but would also
surely lead to his immediate termination (being burnt by a kid with a
smart device is probably an insta-career killer as far as the CIA is
Sophie gives JJ an ultimatum: teach her the ropes of being a spy or
she'll leak the footage.
Of course, the desperate agent acquiesces, and with Kate
conveniently a workaholic and away most days, this affords Sophie some
frequent one-on-one time with JJ, during which time he shows her the ins
and outs of what he does while also helping her to confront some of her
And we wouldn't have a genre exercise like this if JJ and Sophie
didn't get over their initial differences and bond, not to mention that a
possible romance for her single mother and the operative remains a
Of course, Marquez shows up to spoil any potential for happiness.
generic fish-out-of-water storytelling notwithstanding, MY SPY does a
reasonably good job of establishing and embellishing the relationship arc
between the tiny child and the mountain of a man field agent that's been
"made" by said child.
It might not be the most ideal or ordinary of budding surrogate
father/daughter friendships (most fathers don't teach their kids about
explosives and clandestine measures), but MY SPY scores huge points when
it comes to the fairly winning pair of Bautista and Coleman, both of whom
give likeable and winning performances that's benefited from the
surprisingly sharp dialogue exchanges.
The 11-year-old Coleman in particular - outside of being a nice
counterpoint to Bautista's mountain-sized frame - has an awful lot of
natural charm and shrewd comic timing here, most of which plays off of
JJ's complete underestimation of his new partner's street smarts.
this isn't high brow material at all, but much of it did make me laugh,
and MY SPY is replete with multiple moments of goofy, yet well oiled
I especially liked the opening sequence, which has the out of his
element JJ trying to impersonate a Russian agent with a very spotty
accent, leading to the terrorist amusingly deadpanning, "You sound
like Mickey Rourke from IRON MAN 2!"
(also, an obvious nod to Bautista's MCU work).
JJ is also a deadpan delight at times, which hits a high point when
he - without any irony or sarcasm - suggests to Bobbi that they should
"kill" Sophie and "make it look like an accident"
after the child blows their cover.
JJ's ensuing inability to judge Sophie's instincts and nerve also
hit comedic plateaus, as is the case during a perfectly timed pet fish gag
that's perpetrated by Sophie for distraction purposes, and to find out what
is JJ's kryptonite.
There's also a very funny scene where JJ tries to teach her the
art of deception, lying, and reading non-verbal facial and body language
cues, which hysterically leads to the ruthlessly savvy and smooth Sophie
utterly having her way with him in a continued effort to truly get under
his tattooed and muscle padded skin.
Peter Segal (who previously made another very good spy comedy in GET
SMART), gives the proceedings a slick momentum that rarely looses
steam or outlasts its welcome.
Yes, there are elements that don't quite work here, like the
unavoidable romantic courtship between JJ and Sophie's mother that hits
every methodically predictable beat, complete with initial meet-cutes,
unions, obstacles that impede their love, reveals that threaten it, and
Still, Bautista and Fitz-Henry have a few nicely played moments
together that seem a bit more authentically grounded than what we'd find
in most comedies like this.
Yet, other distracting traits stick out, like how some of the
satirizing of the action/spy film milieu feels awkwardly forced at times
and coming off like it belongs in a different movie altogether.
Plus, MY SPY isn't fool proof family entertainment (as shown in the
trailers) when one considers how surprisingly high it is on foul language
It's not as light and fluffy as advertised.