My Spy Review: Bautista and Coleman are the best part of this overly familiar family action/comedy
Originally supposed to make it ways to theaters back in 2019, then in January 2020, then April, and now has finally come onto Amazon Prime with the pandemic still keeping theaters shut down, My Spy is basically another family-friendly action/comedy vehicle, this time, for Dave Bautista.
The film follows JJ (Bautista), a hulking CIA agent whose brawn over brain mentality gets him in hot water with his superiors after his actions make a covert mission have explosive consequences. In order to stay in the agency, JJ is forced to go on an assignment with a nosy tech specialist (Kristen Schaal) that has them watch over the widow (Parisa Fitz-Henley) of a criminal and their daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman). However, after their cover is blown when Sophie walks in on them spying on their apartment and cuts a deal with JJ to help her gain more friends at school and teach her how to be a better spy. With time, JJ becomes attached to Sophie and her mother and builds a bond that could put their mission in jeopardy as their dangerous relative (Greg Bryk) gets close.
It’s almost strange how it seems that most modern action stars always hit a point in their career where they take a more family-friendly turn. The Rock had it with Tooth Fairy and The Game Plan, Vin Diesel had it with The Pacifier, John Cena had it with Playing With Fire last year, and now Bautista is taking his turn with My Spy. Now, this film definitely hits the same kind of beats that all these other films hit – especially The Game Plan. JJ sort of rejects any sort of friendliness to Sophie and kind of just sees her as a nuisance, but eventually grows close with her, and her mom, through some wacky good time are obviously against his initial protocol. Even the wrap-up is the same-old trappings with the same kind of highs, lows, and happily ever after ending we’ve seen plenty of times.
The characters also don’t hold much depth to them as their backstories, motivations, and true issues are barely touched on. JJ is clearly suffering from a traumatic loss that’s revealed later in the film, but his feelings about the event aren’t delved into and it’s a wasted opportunity to give JJ some sympathetic qualities. Even the issues Sophie and her mom face with her father not being around are touched on at a base value and barely leave an impression outside. All of these character issues are just used to create a sense of sadness for everyone and it misses the mark in creating deeper themes for viewers to have some food for thought – especially for younger audiences. Not to mention, the film’s depiction of gay men, in the form of Sophie and her mom’s gay neighbors, is problematic as Carlos (Devere Rogers) is almost cartoonishly flamboyant. He spouts overly cartoony lines, like “Oh my Lord and Taylor,” and is pretty much the only depiction we get of the LGBT community since his partner Todd (Noah Danby) is silent for the movie. It’s a tone-deaf depiction that is meant for comedic relief and really didn’t need to be there at all like this.
However, treading through lackluster familiar territory and mediocre character development is made better through a sweet and often funny chemistry between Bautista and Coleman. Coleman brings a delightful amount of snark and charm as she proves herself to be worthy on-screen adversary for Bautista. The entire training sequence between her and Bautista is great because of how confident she is at outsmarting JJ and proving herself worthy of being a spy. Bautista is also pretty funny here and fans of him as Drax in the MCU will likely be pleased as to what he brings here. He utilizes size, JJ’s rough and tough exterior, and some of the solid comedic sequences, including some fun times at Sophie’s school, a small dance sequence, and JJ constantly putting his foot in his mouth, to create some fun that’s fitting for the whole family. Also, as a fan of Far Cry 5, it’s always a pleasure to see Bryk again – especially in another villain role.
My Spy is definitely the kind of family-friendly film that most would expect and even though Bautista and Coleman definitely give a good effort, there’s no denying that this film follows the action star taking a family-friendly turn that we’ve seen time and time again.