ESP’s film critic Gavin Miller is checking out the movie offerings on the small screen to see what’s worth a look during lockdown…
You’d think a film coming from the director of such comedies as Tommy Boy, 50 First Dates and Naked Gun 33 1/3 would have an idea of the target audience.
But this comedy-actioner is a bit of a tonal mess – despite some likeability factors thrown in.
It’s almost like a ‘rite of passage’ that action stars have to do their grounding in a kid-friendly ‘fish out of water’ comedy. We saw it with Arnie in Kindergarten Cop, Vin Diesel in The Pacifier, Dwayne Johnson with The Game Plan – and even John Cena in December with Playing with Fire. Heck, even Hulk Hogan did it with the likes of Suburban Commando and Mr Nanny.
Now it’s the turn of ex-wrestler Dave ‘Batista’ Bautista – better known as the powerhouse Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy – to join his former WWE-colleagues with his own fairly predictable genre offering.
Sadly it has varying results as it seemingly fluctuates between being ‘PG’ at times, then bordering on a ‘15’ movie at others. Not ever sitting comfortably with its ‘12A’ certification. The jokes go from slapstick generic to being something more adult, with very little to cling onto in between.
Bautista stars as former US Special Forces soldier JJ, whose first mission as a newly-hired CIA operative goes awry when he lets brawn rule his brains – turning what should have been an intelligence mission into a bloodbath.
In the aftermath, despite being lauded by his colleagues for single-handedly taking down Russian and Middle Eastern terrorists, he fails to get the information required to stop the plutonium deal which could lead to a nuclear weapon.
So JJ gets demoted by his by-the-book boss David Kim (The Hangover’s Ken Jeong) – getting paired with new tech recruit Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) in the process – to do simple surveillance duties on widower Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her tenacious daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman) in Chicago, on account of Kate’s murdered husband, being the brother of on-the-run terrorist Marquez (Greg Bryk).
But when young Sophie stumbles across hidden cameras in their house – placed by JJ – she then locates their hideout and blackmails the former soldier into teaching her the tools of his trade.
This in effect leads to the inevitable bonding between the pair, JJ going to special school events, even him dating her Mum etc – you know the drill – which is as generic as what it was a quarter of a century ago.
But while some ‘bad taste’ jokes do end up falling really flat – and there’s some cringeworthy JJ dancing and ice skating set pieces that would seem more at home in a Benny Hill sketch – there’s enough charming chemistry (and a couple of notably funny sequences) between Bautista and Coleman to pull it through to its predictable conclusion, with Schaal providing noteworthy support as his spy partner.
Bautista (after a couple of okayish non-Marvel releases with the likes of Stuber) unfortunately hasn’t got the charisma of ‘The Rock’ – but shows just about enough of an acting range here to pull it through.
But with its tone all over the place it could’ve been a lot worse – which leaves My Spy just about worth seeking out during isolation if you’ve got an Amazon sub.
ESP Rating: 2.5/5
Cast: Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Kristen Schaal, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Greg Bryk, Devere Rogers, Noah Dalton Danby & Ken Jeong
Running Time: 1 Hr 39 Mins
Director: Peter Segal