Promos for the new family action movie “My Spy” have been popping up on television and on social media for the better part of a year now.
This isn’t because this flick starring that former pro wrestler from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies has been eagerly anticipated for so long, rather that multiple studios had little to no idea what to do with the finalized product.
Originally produced by STX and slated for an August 2019 theatrical release, “My Spy” has been bouncing around the release calendar ever since – jumping at least a half dozen times before Amazon Studios purchased the rights to the film for a March 2020 release only to have that pushed to its Amazon Prime streaming service June 26 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The odds have been stacked against director Peter Segal’s film and the end result doesn’t deliver beyond a casual, free watch online.
Dave Bautista stars as JJ, a former special forces operative turned CIA agent whose personal skills prevent him from being an effective spy, pushing him to protection detail for a nine-year-old girl, Sophie, and her mother. When Sophie stumbles onto their hidden operation post, JJ and his technical support Bobbi must keep her from spilling the beans and blowing the op.
Simply put, it’s a lesser, PG-13 version of Melissa McCarthy’s hilarious 2015 comedy “Spy” and a different take on “Kindergarten Cop” without the charisma that Arnold Schwarzenegger brought to that film.
Bautista is a more than serviceable leading man for a film like “My Spy,” which offers enough action sequences to show off his muscles and physical prowess but gives enough opportunities for Bautista to flex his comedic brawn as well.
His ability to play inept largely comes across as endearing – not to the extent of his Drax from the “Guardians” films – but the humor usually results in at least a chuckle if not outright laughter.
“Flight of the Conchords” star Kristen Schaal is often amusing in her snarky role as JJ’s tech operative Bobbi, but it often feels as if Schaal is saddled with the cheesiest, most obvious physical comedy work that turns her Bobbi into somewhat of a drag.
Her genuine admiration for Bautista’s JJ is an ongoing theme throughout “My Spy,” though it’s rarely clear what exactly the character has done to prove his worthiness besides being a dopey butt-kicker.
The brightest star of a mixed bag, newcomer Chloe Coleman is adorably charming and often downright hilarious as the wise-beyond-her-years Sophie. Out of everyone in the film, Coleman is able to best suspend her own disbelief for the outlandishness of the plot and deliver a compelling performance that has genuine warmth.
While Bautista’s place in the industry is relatively secure, Coleman has the biggest upward trajectory as a performer coming out of “My Spy,” which should help her land bigger parts that are more worth of her talent.
Segal’s direction rarely gets in the way and it’s the uneven, frequently boring screenplay from “The Meg” and “Battleship” writers Erich and Jon Hoeber that fails its cast. The duo fail to find the right balance between sweet and sincere with dry and brutal.
Much of the film’s narrative seems like a thrown-away plot device to pit Bautista and Coleman in a variety of situations rather than make what happens in the film genuinely important.
“My Spy” also suffers from winking at the audience far too much. There’s nods to the implausibility of JJ’s thinly constructed romance with Kate and overt jokes about catch phrases good guys say when they eliminate the bad guys.
A comedic sequence that includes training Sophie about how to casually stroll away from a major explosion works very well, but as is the case with much of “My Spy,” the gimmick is pulled well beyond its means.
Too crude for the preteens who would probably enjoy it best and beneath the teens it targets, “My Spy” isn’t something worth spending money on but could be enjoyed casually in the background while surfing through the Amazon Prime streaming service.