Thursday, July 2, 2020

My Spy Struggles With Comedy and Originality

It is May 2008. I'm watching a rerun of Kindergarten Cop. I have never seen this movie but it's already familiar. A muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid in a children's movie. The formula is apparent.

It is November 2004. I'm eight years old. I'm in a movie theater waiting to watch Chicken Little. The trailer for The Pacifier plays.  A muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid in a children's movie. It has happened again.

It is June 2020. I am twenty-four years old. I'm at home watching the new movie My Spy. Directed by Peter Segal, My Spy concerns CIA agent JJ (Dave Bautista), whose good at snapping necks but bad with people. When little girl Sophie (Chloe Chloeman) stumbles on his newest mission, Sophie coerces JJ to be her friend in order to earn her silence. In the process, JJ and Sophie begin to help solve each other's personal problems.

This movie has already run for ten minutes. Yet it already feels like it's run for an eternity. Screenwriters Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber have created an utterly formulaic script. Every beat in the story is predictable.

In thirty-five minutes time, JJ and Sophie will begin to bond at a school event.

In seventy-five minutes time, JJ's lies will catch up to him and he'll briefly have to leave Sophie's life.

It is December 2009. I am fourteen years old. The impending end of Middle School weighs heavily on my mind. At some point, I catch a portion of the trailer for The Spy Next Door. There it is again. A muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid in a children's movie.

Two hours into my future, I struggle to write a review for My Spy. There's so little to say about a movie this disposable. The filmmaking is stale. Jokes are executed lifelessly. Only Kristen Schaal, as a C.I.A. accomplice to JJ, manages a handful of laughs. Otherwise, My Spy is totally forgettable. How can I write about this movie?

I am sixty minutes into My Spy. The villain of the movie, Victor Marquez (Greg Bryk), just stabbed someone to death. Why does a film aimed at children feature such gruesome deaths? It's understandable when darker kids movies like The Dark Crystal or Rango engage in violence. But usually My Spy has all the edge of a Dove hand soap commercial. The random bursts of violence are intrusive rather than an organic extension of the tone.

I am ninety minutes into My Spy. Kristen Schall just delivered her fourth witty line referencing some odd detail in the plot, in this case the fact that a runway was built next to a cliff. My Spy seems to believe that characters being aware of nonsensical details in the script will automatically create comedy. It doesn't. Lampshading is not an apt substitute for jokes.

It is March 2017. I am watching Bringing Up Baby for the first time. I am cracking up. Katharine Hepburn is a comedic master. This is one of my favorite comedies. My Spy is certainly not.

It is July 2, 2020. My Spy has finished. Clumsy pay-off's to JJ's inability to either ice-skate or dance close out the movie. It's an awkward finish. Dave Bautista is a good actor. He can be quite funny. But he's poorly directed here. His depiction of JJ struggling in social situations just makes the character come off as abrasive. Meanwhile, his handling of JJ's myriad of slapstick stunts isn't very funny. Bautista's performance lacks life, as does the rest of My Spy.

It is now five hours later on July 2, 2020. My fingers tap away at the keys on my laptop. I am writing the final words on my review for My Spy. What an awkward movie. Not funny enough for adults. Kids will probably be bored by it more than anything else. Talented people like Dave Bautista and Kristen Schall deserve better than starring in the newest Cop-and-a-Half knock-off.

I'd hope a forgettable movie like My Spy would put an end to bad family movies starring a muscular action star playing opposite a precocious kid.

But if Hollywood has taught me anything, it's that nothing ends. Nothing ever ends.

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