Movie Review: My Spy

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic (we can finally call it a pandemic, so says the WHO), up is down and down is up. While China may be the only country so far that has shut down its cinemas, here in Hong Kong, our cinema operators are seating moviegoers in alternate rows. They’re also taking everyone’s temperature before you are allowed inside (my temperature was 34.1° last night, which would seem to indicate that their thermometer guns are not too accurate as I’m normally at 35.6°), and you have to wear a mask. Of course, as soon as the lights go down, you can take the mask off and who’s going to know except for the people beside you? Moreover, while the staggered seating may be a prudent decision, how does that protect you from the stranger sitting two seats away from you?

Hollywood, too, has taken action, the most notable being to delay the release of the next James Bond film, NO TIME NO DIE — an unfortunate choice of titles in retrospect — to November. PETER RABBIT 2 has also been delayed and production of the next MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film has been put on hold. Both BLACK WIDOW and F9 are still scheduled for release in May but let’s see if their dates are kept. The big problem with delaying so many films is that the studios will run out of slots and their films will end up competing against each other for your dollars.

The show must go on though, and the lesser titles are still getting released. This week in Hong Kong we’re able to see the new Dave Bautista-led family comedy, MY SPY, which has also been pushed back (to mid-April) in the US. The film’s local distributor must be rubbing their hands with glee at their fortune, as the film was originally supposed to go up against NO TIME TO DIE. Now its competition is just a couple of non-English language titles that have arrived with zero advance publicity. If you haven’t been to the cinema in a few weeks, you may be wondering if MY SPY is worth getting you to go back.

As Morrissey and Mark Ronson each sang, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Hard-as-nails CIA operative, JJ (Bautista, the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY films, the AVENGERS films, BLADE RUNNER 2049, SPECTRE), sees his career sidelined after his last mission doesn’t go quite as planned. His boss, David Kim (Ken Jeong, CRAZY RICH ASIANS), assigns both him and tech analyst Bobbi (Kristen Schaal, the voice of Forky in TOY STORY 4; TV’s 30 ROCK) to Chicago where they surveil ER nurse Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley, FANTASY ISLAND) and her precocious nine-year-old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman, TV’s BIG LITTLE LIES). Kate was married to a Russian mobster whose brother, Marquez (Greg Bryk, AD ASTRA), is suspected of trying to get his hands on some plans for a dirty bomb that JJ was supposed to intercept during that messed-up mission. Why a Russian would have a Spanish name and why the CIA would be interested in Kate and Sophie, who are living in plain sight, are never made clear, though the reason for the latter becomes obvious thirty seconds after JJ and Bobbi plant cameras and microphones all over Kate’s flat, and Sophie finds one of the bugs and traces it back to JJ and Bobbi’s base of operations located in another flat in their building. With their operation busted even before it’s begun, Sophie blackmails JJ into taking her ice skating and teaching her about spycraft as she tries to fit in with the popular kids in her class. Before long, she’s matchmaking JJ and Kate, which goes well until Marquez shows up.

So where have we heard this one before? KINDERGARTEN COP and LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, to name just two. MY SPY is Bautista’s attempt to do exactly what Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dwayne Johnson and John Cena have done before, and like Cena’s recent family film, PLAYING WITH FIRE, MY SPY requires audiences to check their intelligence at the door. It is beyond dumb with few jokes hitting the mark, cardboard characterisations and sloppy direction from Peter Segal, who also did SECOND ACT, ANGER MANAGEMENT and 50 FIRST DATES. In one scene, Kate gets some bad news in a phone call. Sophie, who is standing directly behind her, says, “I’ve seen that face before.” Does the kid have x-ray vision too or is she looking at her mother’s reflection in an invisible mirror? In another scene, Bobbi uses a high-powered telescope to see into Kate’s apartment. Um, Kate lives downstairs, not across the road. The film’s one saving grace is Bautista, who channels his Drax character from GOTG to deadpan his reactions to most of what’s going on around him. Unfortunately, he’s not enough to make this film worth watching for 106 minutes… or even 16 minutes.

Sure, you can argue that it’s a family film and perhaps I’m not the target demographic but the film also contains some words that I wouldn’t want a young child to hear and there’s one scene where a dismembered head goes flying through the air. (These days, though, kids are exposed to so much more than I was at that age so you may feel differently.)

Do yourself a favour and stay home. MY SPY is definitely not worth your time, money or health.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, March 13th, 8:30 am HK time!

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