My Spy (2 stars)

My Spy

Dave Bautista teams up with a 9-year-old girl in an amiably lightweight but all-too disposable comedy

There's a cinematic tradition of placing popular strongmen opposite precocious kids: think Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, or Vin Diesel in The Pacifier. Peter Segal's My Spy gives man-mountain action star Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) a crack at being a genial children's entertainer in a lazy but amiably lightweight family comedy; the results are sure-footed yet disposable.

JJ Cena (Bautista) is introduced bloodlessly eliminating a number of secret agents against a Chernobyl background. On his return to CIA headquarters, Cena and partner Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) are dispatched to Chicago to manage surveillance on the Newton family, with medic mother Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her 9-year-old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman) unaware that their new neighbours have set up hidden cameras in their home. Sophie eventually rumbles them but, rather than shopping them to her mom, uses the opportunity to blackmail Cena into being her best buddy, taking her ice-skating and buying her ice-cream.

Softening Bautista's tough-guy image makes a kind of sense, and kids may get a kick out of seeing a wrestling / mixed martial arts star get in touch with his feminine side. But My Spy takes things a little too far by having Cena more intuitively connected to the little girl than her own mother, removing any real potential for character conflict. Instead, My Spy meanders to an air-strip finale where a throwaway line shamefacedly acknowledges that the scene was lifted directly from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Indeed, My Spy seems to have been entirely assembled with warmed-up elements from other films, making it something of a strain for adults to watch. Any film that casts The Hangover's Ken Jeong as an authoritarian CIA boss has tonal issues and, despite decent leads, My Spy doesn't do either tough, or warm and fuzzy particularly well.

General release from Fri 13 Mar.

My Spy

  • 2 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 42min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Peter Segal
  • Cast: Dave Bautista, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong

JJ (Bautista) is a CIA agent who when carrying out surveillance is befriended by nine-year-old Sophie (Coleman). Amiably lightweight but all-too-disposable family comedy which seems to have been assembled with warmed-up elements of other films; it doesn't do tough very well, but isn't notably warm & fuzzy either.