`My Spy’ struggles with comedy, originality

Douglas Laman
Special to Texoma Marketing and Media Group
Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and JJ  (Dave Bautista) try to look as cool as they can in the actio comedy "My Spy." Amazon]

It is November 2004. I'm 8 years old. I'm in a movie theater waiting to watch “Chicken Little.” The trailer for “The Pacifier” plays. A muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid in a children's movie. The formula is apparent.

It is May 2008. I'm watching a rerun of “Kindergarten Cop.” I have never seen this movie, but it's already familiar. A muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid in a children's movie. It has happened again.

It is June 2020. I am 24 years old. I'm at home watching the new movie “My Spy.” Directed by Peter Segal, “My Spy” concerns CIA agent JJ (Dave Bautista), who’s good at snapping necks but bad with people. When little girl Sophie (Chloe Chloeman) stumbles on his newest mission, she coerces JJ to be her friend in order to earn her silence. In the process, JJ and Sophie begin to help solve each other's personal problems.

This movie has already run for 10 minutes. Yet it already feels like it's run for an eternity. Screenwriters Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber have created an utterly formulaic script. Every beat in the story is predictable.

In 35 minutes, JJ and Sophie will begin to bond at a school event.

In 75 minutes, JJ's lies will catch up to him and he'll briefly have to leave Sophie's life.

It is December 2009. I am 14 years old. The impending end of middle school weighs heavily on my mind. At some point, I catch a portion of the trailer for “The Spy Next Door.” There it is again. A muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid in a children's movie.

I struggle to write a review for “My Spy.” There's so little to say about a movie this disposable. The filmmaking is stale. Jokes are executed lifelessly. Only Kristen Schaal, as a C.I.A. accomplice to JJ, manages a handful of laughs. Otherwise, “My Spy” is totally forgettable. How can I write about this movie?

I am 60 minutes into My Spy. The villain of the movie, Victor Marquez (Greg Bryk), just stabbed someone to death. Why does a film aimed at children feature such gruesome deaths? It's understandable when darker kids movies like “The Dark Crystal” or “Rango” engage in violence. But “My Spy” has all the edge of a Dove hand soap commercial. The random bursts of violence are intrusive rather than an organic extension of the tone.

I am 90 minutes into “My Spy.” Kristen Schall just delivered her fourth witty line referencing some odd detail in the plot - in this case the fact that a runway was built next to a cliff. “My Spy” seems to believe that characters being aware of nonsensical details in the script will automatically create comedy. It doesn't. Lampshading is not an apt substitute for jokes.

It is March 2017. I am watching “Bringing Up Baby” for the first time. I am cracking up. Katharine Hepburn is a comedic master. This is one of my favorite comedies. “My Spy” is certainly not.

It is July 2, 2020. “My Spy” has finished. Clumsy payoff's to JJ's inability to either ice-skate or dance close out the movie. It's an awkward finish. Bautista is a good actor. He can be quite funny. But he's poorly directed here. His depiction of JJ struggling in social situations just makes the character come off as abrasive. Meanwhile, his handling of JJ's myriad slapstick stunts isn't very funny. Bautista's performance lacks life, as does the rest of “My Spy.”

It is now five hours later. My fingers tap away at the keys on my laptop. I am writing the final words on my review for “My Spy.” What an awkward movie. Not funny enough for adults. Kids will probably be bored by it more than anything else. Talented people like Bautista and Schall deserve better than starring in the newest “Cop-and-a-Half” knock-off.

I'd hope a forgettable movie like “My Spy” would put an end to bad family movies starring a muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid.

But if Hollywood has taught me anything, it's that nothing ends. Nothing ever ends.

Douglas Laman is a lifelong movie fan and writer. A graduate of UT Dallas, he is preparing to become a graduate student at the University of North Texas. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.