MY SPY

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Peter Segal

Stars: Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Kristen Schaal, Parisa Fritz-Henley, Greg Bryk, Ken Jeong, Nicola Correia-Damunde, Noah Danby, Devere Rogers.

Dave Bautista and Chloe Coleman in My Spy (2020)

Following a botched operation to catch a terrorist, veteran CIA field agent Jason Jones (Dave Bautista), known as JJ by his colleagues, finds himself demoted to surveillance detail. He is charged with watching the Chicago apartment of the beautiful widow Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), whose bother-in-law Marquez is suspected of trying to purchase a nuclear device. JJ sets up in a vacant apartment in the same block with the help of his nerdy tech genius Bobbi (Kristen Schaal, from tv series The Last Man On Earth, etc)), a tech genius who wants to be an action hero herself. JJ expects to be bored with the assignment.

Before long though Kate’s precocious nine-year old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman, a tv actress making her feature debut here) rumbles to JJ and his surveillance and forces him to look after her while her mother, a nurse, is busy at work. JJ takes her ice skating, defends her against a couple of pint-sized bullies, and proves to be a hit when he attends school for a Parents and Special Friends Day. He also finds himself teaching her some of the finer details of spy craft.

But the routine assignment finally provides the action that JJ longs for when Marquez (Greg Bryk) turns up on the scene. Cue car chases and a final showdown loaded with pyrotechnics and action.

This enjoyable spy spoof about a hardened spy who is forced to play guardian to a precocious kid plays out like a variation on the 2005 Vin Diesel action comedy The Pacifier or Jackie Chan’s 2010 actioncomedy The Spy Next Door. The film has been written by Erich and Jon Hoeber (RED, etc). Director Peter Segal (The Naked Gun 3, The Longest Yard, etc) is a dab hand at this sort of thing, and he delicately balances the family friendly humour with toned down action.

Since his breakout role as Drax in the Guardians Of The Galaxy series, the muscle-bound Bautista, a former champion wrestler, seems happy to carve out a niche for himself in light action comedies like this. Earlier we saw him in Stuber, a formulaic odd couple buddy cop movie which paired his vision impaired tough detective with a hapless and reluctant uber driver in a mission to bring about a major drugs bust. However, it would also appear that the scripts Bautista is being offered are those that have already been passed over by the likes of other major action stars like Dwayne Johnson.

Bautista brings his gruff and surly presence to the role, and it is fun to see him attempt to lighten up in scenes where he has to play nice with the precocious Sophie and her mother. There is plenty of physical comedy here as JJ is coerced into taking Sophie ice skating and even dances (badly) to please Kate.

As with John Cena in the recent Playing With Fire, Bautista often seems uncomfortable and out of his element, which adds to the humour. Providing strong off beat support is Schaal, who is excellent as his partner Bobbi. Her sarcastic asides and scathing putdowns are a constant delight. And there is a great chemistry between Bautista and Coleman that adds to the film’s charms. And Ken Jeong (from The Hangover series, etc) reins in his usual annoying mannerisms to deliver a straight-forward performance as JJ’s humourless boss.

My Spy delivers a family friendly action comedy with a soft centre, driven largely by the chemistry between its brawny action hero star and his precocious pint-sized co-star.

★★★

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