It is a rare comedy for kids that starts with explosions and the execution style deaths of bad guys, but here we are. “My Spy” is an action adventure co-starring a nine-year-old and a hulking action star in a story with no blood and guts but plenty of violence but also plenty of charm.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” star Dave Bautista is JJ, a tough talking mountain of a man whose closest friend is a fish named Blueberry. As a C.I.A. agent he gets the job done, usually in the least subtle way possible. After one action packed adventure he is assigned the relatively quiet gig of surveilling Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a single mother who was once married to a very bad man. Their mission is to gather information to determine if anything nefarious is happening inside the apartment.
When preteen Sophie (Chloe Coleman) discovers the camera’s in her mom’s apartment she tracks down JJ and his sidekick Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) in their “secret” apartment down the hall. Instead of being freaked out Sophie threatens to expose their operation unless JJ teaches her how to be a spy. As he clandestinely trains the youngster how to beat a lie detector and other 007 moves, he lets his bullet proof façade drop, becoming a father figure of sorts to Sophie and a love interest to Kate. “You opened up a part of me that has been closed for a long time,” he tells her.
When the baddies show up JJ and Sophie must team to keep Kate safe.
“My Spy” has many of the earmarks of a kid’s flick. There’s the young co-star, some silly humour and even a dance number of sorts at the end. It also has some bad language, violence and gunfire so keep the little ones away even if they are fans of the larger-than-life Drax the Destroyer’s more kid friendly adventures. Just as this movie is somewhere between a kid’s movie and an action film, the audience is best limited to tweens.
Bautista is following in the footsteps of other muscle-bound stars like Arnold “Kindergarten Cop” Schwarzenegger, Vin “The Pacifier” Diesel and Dwayne ” Tooth Fairy” Johnson in kid’s odd couple—big and burly, small and smart—films. The movies only work if there is chemistry between the leads and here the film’s biggest asset—and no, it’s not Bautista’s bulk—is the charming spark between Bautista and Coleman. The story is predictable, the villain is super evil and some scenes seem overly familiar (didn’t Schwarzenegger already speak to a class of kid in “Kindergarten Cop”?) but despite all that, it raises a laugh or three.
Bautista is funny here, he can do the physical stuff, deliver a one liner and doesn’t seem to be taking himself too seriously while Coleman delivers, presenting Sophie as naturally smart and independent.
“My Spy” owes a debt to the other tough guy babysitting movies that came before it but succeeds through personality over predictability.