Review: ‘My Spy’

Dave Bautista Lets His Guard Down In A Formulaic But Amusing Action-Comedy For All Ages

If you’re a muscle-bound guy who either looks like an ex-professional wrestler or actually IS an ex-professional wrestler, then your path to stardom passes through the family-friendly kids’ comedy. Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and John Cena have all had their time getting bested by some child in a movie that makes them look innocent and harmless, and now with My Spy it’s Dave Bautista’s turn and he doesn’t let us down.

That’s not to say My Spy is anything more than a passable, feel-good film with an enjoyably dopey Bautista, because it definitely isn’t. But it does give Bautista a chance to show that he can believably play warm ‘n fuzzy, something he’s only been able to tease slightly as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and as the gentle bruiser Sapper Morton in Blade Runner 2049.

My Spy stars Bautista as JJ, a killing machine for a CIA that prefers their agents be a bit more stealthy. But going unnoticed isn’t exactly easy for a guy like JJ, and after blowing his first big mission, is busted down to a surveillance gig watching over Kate Newton (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her 8-year-old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman of Big Little Lies), who are connected to a French arms dealer. Joined by his dorky sidekick Bobbi (Kristen Schaal, always a treat), JJ is too angry at his crappy, boring assignment that he doesn’t notice Sophie has figured out their base of operations and walks right into their HQ. Rather than blow the mission and certainly lose his job, JJ agrees to take Sophie ice skating so she can try and fit in with the other school kids. If he does it to her satisfaction, then Sophie won’t expose them. But JJ can’t do anything halfway, and soon he starts ingratiating himself into Kate and Sophie’s lives as their over-protective neighbor.

Directed by Peter Segal, who has given us comedies such as Get Smart and Grudge Match, the formulaic sitcom hijinks are at a high. Bautista’s gung-ho for all of it, too, even as he’s forced to endure the classic show & tell scene in front of a bunch of wary school kids. And if you guessed Bautista has at least one embarrassing dance scene, you’re right! Bautista’s further along in letting his guard down than others were at this stage of their careers. Bautista plays awkward and sensitive extremely well, which is a big reason why his bond with Coleman, a rising star in the making, clicks despite the cliche material. He even shows himself to be a believable romantic lead as JJ and Kate start to get close.

My Spy is exactly what you are already expecting it to be, and that’s okay. As a showcase for Bautista to prove he can have that all-ages appeal, it’s a definite win and hopefully will lead to more beyond simple action movies…maybe even a My Spy 2?

My Spy hits Amazon Prime on June 26th.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
My Spy
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.