I Spy

I Spy


Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

As I am not so familiar with the Sixties TV series, on which this movie is based, I cannot make any fair comparisons to it. Judging by the standards of modern spy movies, even those starring children, it feels lukewarm and low-tech.

Eddie Murphy stopped being funny back in the Eighties. Ever since, his movies have been terrible, unless there was someone to act against - Martin Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Steve Martin, Shrek. He tries too hard to appeal to families and has dropped his swearing and adult humor. Here, he plays an arrogant, loudmouth boxer, called Kelly Robinson, with not a glimmer of Axel Foley, just lots of shouting and the sentence, "I am Kelly Robinson," repeated 50 million times.

Copy picture

In the opening scene, incompetent Special Agent Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) tries to rescue a traitor pilot, who has sold his prototype invisible plane to the evil Gundars (Malcolm McDowell, in the same role he's been playing since Tank Girl). The traitor is killed and Alex is sent to Budapest to try to get the plane back, before Gundars sells it to someone even more evil. But security is so tight around him that Alex needs the cover of Kelly's world championship boxing match as a distraction. So the two of them are thrown together in a typical odd couple/buddy buddy pairing.

The main fault of I Spy is similar to Showtime. The script is weak and tackles the story with such superficial lightness that nothing makes an impact, or creates a lasting memory, even though the idea offers so much potential. Bad guys are generic, foreign locations do not impress and the action doesn't carry the film too well. What it needs are higher ambitions, but director Betty Thomas takes the quick and easy way by cranking out a conveyor belt product.

Plus points are definitely Wilson, who is becoming a stronger leading man, and his childish bickering with Murphy and constant cabbage-eyed crush on fellow agent Famke Janssen. It's really thanks to him that the movie is bearable and, to be honest, even if a wooden plank was acting opposite him he could still make the thing watchable. If it was just Eddie, without Owen, the movie would have bombed instantly.

It is a total mystery where the $70 million budget disappeared. The action is hardly high-powered and the movie lacks even technical sophistication. A remake of a 40-year-old TV show, that no one remembers, is more curious than interesting. Imagine a half-assed remake of Bonanza. Sound good? Nah, didn't think so.

The plot does a bit of a curly-wurly at the end that shows a glimmer of originality, but not enough to save it. I Spy ends up as an assortment of jumbled scenes from Another 48 Hours, Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour and Spy Kids. There's no spark, no ace up the sleeve and no standing out from the crowd.

Miss this and you'll live.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2003
Share this with others on...
I Spy packshot
Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy team up is spoof action thriller, involving an invisible plane.
Amazon link

Director: Betty Thomas

Writer: Morton S. Fine, David Friedkin, Marianne Wibberley, Cormac Wibberley, Jay Scherick, David Ronn

Starring: Owen Wilson, Eddie Murphy, Famke Janssen, Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole

Year: 2002

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

OSS 117: Cairo - Nest Of Spies
Rush Hour