When it comes to films about an action star caring for a young child or family to prove himself, pretty much everything in the book has been done. When a new action star is on the rise, movies like Adam Shankman’s THE PACIFIER (2005) and Michael Lembeck’s THE TOOTH FAIRY (2010) seem to come along. With Dave Bautista starring in recent hits like James Gunns’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), Sam Mendes’ SPECTRE (2015), and his limited screen-time in Denis Villeneuve’s BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), it was only a matter of time before he was given a role like this. Peter Segal’s MY SPY (2020) is absolutely everything you think it might be and nothing more. This film takes zero risks in surprising its audience and for that reason alone, I just can’t recommend it.
After royally screwing up a job and destroying any possible intel he could’ve garnered, JJ (Dave Bautista) is placed on surveillance of mother, Kate (Parisa-Fritz Henley) and daughter, Sophie (Chloe Coleman). Having to watch over them while also becoming very involved with both of them, things get sticky for JJ. With that set-up, you can pretty much guess every single one of the ups and downs a film like this would have and it doesn’t miss a mark. Movies like this have the potential to break the formulaic curse, but this one just didn’t have any original bones in it.
I’ll be honest and say that Dave Bautista isn’t one of the world’s greatest actors, but I will say that when he’s given the right role or the right direction, he shines brightly. This movie felt like a mixture of the two, however, because it seemed like he was using his witty personality from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but also being very laid back and subdued like he was in BLADE RUNNER 2049. This made for a lukewarm performance for me, as he really didn’t find a happy medium. Still, I’ve grown to like him as a performer over the last couple of years and his chemistry with young Chloe Coleman definitely saved the film for me.
Much like my issues with his character, I feel that this movie was unsure of what it wanted to be. My biggest takeaway from the film was the fact that it clearly isn’t meant for young children because there is violence, but it’s so tame that older kids may find it to be slightly childish. That’s a hard line to walk with a movie like this. The contrast between JJ’s day job and his time with Sophie felt like two completely different films throughout the first half. It felt more natural towards the end, but was a little too late for me to be truly invested.
In the end, this movie strives to please adults, action junkies, and children all at once and it never really hits that mark as a whole, nor does it feel like one coherent piece of filmmaking. With that said, Bautista and Coleman are great together and I’ve liked movies with this formula in the past, so it was at least watchable for me. The problem is that the film, from start to finish, feels like a copy and paste of many, many others. It’s hard to recommend a movie like that unless it presents something new worth seeing and I just don’t think MY SPY had that to offer. It may please kids around the age of ten, but I can’t see this movie impressing much more than that.