I Spy

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

I SPY

4/10

USA 2002 : Betty THOMAS : 96 mins

I Spy is an uninspired, blatant combination of two recent Hollywood trends – (A) the cash-in update of a half-remembered old-school TV show from decades past and (B) the big-budget movie filmed in an eastern European capital to save money. The plot is a low-calorie variation on xXx, in which hot-shot US sports star Vin Diesel was recruited by a CIA-type organisation for an unlikely undercover mission in Prague. This time hot-shot US sports star Eddie Murphy (as boxer Kelly Robinson) is recruited by the CIA itself for an unlikely undercover mission in Budapest – with the added extra that he has to work alongside established operative Alex Scott: Owen Wilson delivering his trademark drawling-stoner performance.

This will not go down as either star’s finest hour – Wilson is especially ill-served by an embarrassing sub-Cyrano sequence where Scott, coached through an ear-piece by Robinson, woos sexy colleague Rachael (Famke Janssen) with the words to ‘Sexual Healing.’ A little of Murphy’s fast-talking routing as Robinson goes a very long way, and though Gary Cole does his best to liven things up in his all-too-brief appearances as flamboyant 007-type Carlos, Malcolm McDowell can seldom have picked up so much cash for so little work as Gundars, the arms-trading nominal villain of the piece. To be fair, however, none of the cast gets much help from Marianne & Cormac Wibberley’s script or from director Thomas, who shows little flair for comedy and even less for action: maybe not the best choice, then, for an action-comedy movie?

7th March, 2003
(seen 20th January, Warner Village, Newcastle)

by Neil Young