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Review: My Spy

March 13, 2020

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Dave Bautista tries to pull a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in My Spy, seemingly copying the career choices of his fellow wrestler turned actor to star in this kids action comedy as a CIA agent who becomes the unlikely father figure to a precocious child.

And if Bautista doesn’t quite have Johnson’s charisma, he still does a decent job in the role, carrying the film alongside support from bright young star Chloe Coleman as said child. The result is a clichéd but at times mildly entertaining film that falls squarely into the mediocre middle ground of being neither terrible nor particularly great.

After an undercover bust on a weapons deal in Russia goes horribly awry, operative JJ (Bautista) is reassigned by his boss at the CIA, David Kim (Ken Jeong), and sent with his assistant Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) to do surveillance on Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a widowed nurse who has just moved back to Chicago from Paris with her 9-year-old daughter Sophie (Coleman). You see, Kate was previously involved with a high level weapons dealer and his brother, Marquez (Greg Byrk).

Sophie was the product of that relationship, and there is evidence that her uncle is plotting something and might be in contact with Kate. JJ and Bobbi set up their stake out in an empty unit in the family’s apartment building, and install cameras to keep watch on them. When Sophie discovers they have been spying on her by following the signal from an unidentified WiFi network, she blackmails JJ into teaching her how to be a spy and acting as her parental guardian to take her to a skating party, in exchange for not blowing his cover. A bond soon forms between the two, and he becomes like a father to her.

Directed by Peter Segal, who also made the spy spoof Get Smart over a decade ago, My Spy is the sort of film that works well enough at what it sets out to do, but never really rises above an agreeable midlevel, either. Bautista is essentially doing what Arnold Schwarzenegger already did in Kindergarten Cop and Vin Diesel did in The Pacifier, and it’s obvious that the film is following a pretty similar mold as those earlier films about tough guys turned caretakers.

A lot of the humour here feels sitcomish, and while the film does get points for trying to be inclusive by featuring a gay couple, Carlos (Davere Rogers) and Todd (Noah Danby), as Sophie’s neighbours, the film is nowhere near as progressive as it seems to think it is. The characters are presented as little more than outdated gay stereotypes, and even though “let’s laugh at how gay they are!” might have been a thing back in the 1990s or 2000s, it feels stale by current standards.

But there are still a few amusing moments in this Toronto-shot comedy, which are matched by some fairly decent action scenes. It’s predictable and clichéd and we know exactly where it’s going to end up, but My Spy still isn’t the worst thing out there for families and is kept mostly watchable thanks to the likeable interplay between Bautista and Coleman.

My Spy is opening today in theatres across Canada, with the United States release date recently being pushed back to April 17th.

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