FILM REVIEW – MY SPY. With Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong. Written by Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber. Directed by Peter Segal. Rated PG-13 for action/violence and language. 99 minutes. On Amazon Prime.
Baby, you’re the worst
Who did the producers of MY SPY imagine their audience was? The premise of having an action star paired with youngsters is not original––see “Kindergarten Cop,” “Tooth Fairy,” “The Pacifier,” “Mr. Nanny”––but this awkward vehicle wastes “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Dave Bautista in a film that won’t satisfy action fans and is utterly inappropriate for kids.
Bautista stars as JJ, a CIA agent who, in the prologue, is involved in a violent shootout with international terrorists. Following up on the case, he has to tail the family of single mom Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), whose daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman) is a bit of a misfit. Sophie figures out what’s going on and so JJ has to cooperate with the nine-year-old to uncover the plot.
While Bautistia and Coleman have a rapport, it’s not enough. The film, which is rated PG-13, is too violent for the kids it’s ostensibly pitched to and is too lame to appeal to those looking for a tough action film. It’s the sort of movie that will give children nightmares and leave adults yawning. Clearly the suits who greenlit this project are childless themselves.
To add to the problem, the casting is likely to turn off additional viewers. The film manages to cast not one but two of the most annoying actors out there in supporting roles. The singularly talentless Ken Jeong turns up like the proverbial bad penny as JJ’s boss. Fortunately, he’s only in a few scenes. Whiny comedian Kristen Schaal, alas, is cast as JJ’s sidekick and there’s no avoiding her throughout the film.
To pull off a movie like this requires some thought as to the intended audience. On the one hand, there’s something like “Leon: The Professional” (1994) with an assassin paired with a 12 year-old-girl. It was a tough, R-rated action film that made no pretense of playing to young viewers. On the other hand is something like “Spy Kids: 3D” (2003), which featured no less than Sylvester Stallone as the villain, but was a PG movie suitable for older children.
“My Spy” manages not to satisfy either extreme. It’s far too violent for youngsters and it’s far too tame for adult action fans. Bautista is a lot of fun in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, but he has yet to develop the range of, say, Dwayne Johnson. Seeing him on a seesaw with a bunch of kids is a sight gag, not a character moment. He may be capable of more, but this movie does not provide him the opportunity to show it.
Like the recent “Artemis Fowl,” the result is a movie that may distract uncritical younger viewers, but is not very good. Given its violent content, parents will be well advised to take a look and see if they deem it appropriate viewing for their own children.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.