I Spy (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/01/2003

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Routine buddy comedy that coasts on the performances of its stars – the plot is tedious but there are a few good gags along the way.

If you have any fond memories of the Bill Cosby / Robert Culp-starring 1960s TV series on which I Spy is based, it’s probably best to put them gently to rest, because this bares little or no resemblance to it, instead taking the basics and using them as a tailor-made set up for a fairly routine buddy comedy.

Predictable, Predictable, Predictable

Owen Wilson (Behind Enemy Lines, The Royal Tenenbaums) stars as Alex Scott, a slightly bumbling secret agent who never seems to get the girl, the best jobs or the best gadgets.

He’s reluctantly teamed with Kelly Robinson, Eddie Murphy’s preening, spoiled world champion boxer (who always refers to himself as ‘Kelly Robinson’), in order to retrieve an invisible plane (yes, that’s right, an invisible plane – blame the Bond movie, they’ll all be doing it now) from Evil Arms Dealer Malcolm McDowell, at whose headquarters Robinson just happens to have a match…

Unsurprisingly, it’s all extremely formulaic, predictable stuff, with Famke Janssen thrown in as the love interest (not that there’s anything wrong with that). All the rules of Buddy Comedies apply and Murphy and Wilson eventually find – yes! - a grudging respect for each other, although having said that, the male bonding in the sewer scene is one of the funniest bits.

But There Is The Odd Good Gag

The two leads are good and make the best of what they’re given. Wilson’s laid-back, slightly dim persona is a good contrast with Murphy’s business-as-usual wise-ass and there are some great lines. (Wilson’s running joke about hoping to go on a stake out in particular).

What lets the film down is the pedestrian nature of its action sequences – the chase sequence, for example, is actually boring and the supposedly exciting climax lacks tension.

That’s not to say there aren’t some good gags, although, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve probably seen all of them. Still, the extended, modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac sequence that forms the film’s central gag is pretty amusing.

In short, this isn’t as good as Shanghai Noon (Owen Wilson / Jackie Chan) or even, really, as good as Showtime (Eddie Murphy / Robert DeNiro), though Owen Wilson fans won’t be disappointed. It’s not awful, but you do end up feeling that with a bit more effort put into it, it could have been a lot better.

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I Spy (12A)
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Content updated: 13/12/2017 22:45

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