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I Spy
2002 - PG-13 - 96 Mins.
Director: Betty Thomas
Producer: Betty Thomas, Jenno Topping, Mario Kassar, Andrew Vajna, Andrew G. Vajna
Written By: Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Ronald Bass, Robert Harling, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberly
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Over the years, audiences have been subjected to very bad spy-spoof films, including movies such as “Spy Hard,” and pathetically weak spy-buddy movies such as “Spies Like Us.” Then, there are some treats that appear along the way, like the guilty pleasure of “Austin Powers” which provided some good laughs ridiculing the James Bond phenomena.

But now, in these past two years or so, Hollywood seems to be in a remake tick, seeing that movies from “Ocean’s Eleven” to TV films like “Carrie” are being remade. Luckily, films like “Ocean’s…” are funny, but there have been some very bad remakes also…

And then, a few months ago, “I Spy” was released, based (ahem, *based*) on the 1960’s television show with Bill Cosby. This remake stars Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson as a boxer and spy respectively.

Eddie Murphy plays world-famous boxer Kelly Robinson, known for his long-time winning streak and loud antics on – and outside of – the ring. It’s basically Mike Tyson incarnate. He’s constantly loud-mouthing, hitting on eager-to-please women, and just causing trouble.

Owen Wilson plays Alex, a top-secret spy in a top-secret government operation with a top-secret mission to handle. Unfortunately, because he is almost always second choice to a spy named Carlos (is there a pun on “The Bourne Identity” novel, there? I’m not sure…) who “gets cooler gadgets” and the women, Alex cannot mess up his new assignment or he will most likely never get a chance to go on one again.

Before I go into Alex’s mission, I will mention that Famke Jannsen is in this movie, too, but she’s mainly there for looks.

Anyway, here’s the top-secret mission…

A well-known criminal has stolen a top-secret stealth-jet (which has the power to camouflage itself like the alien in “Predator”) from the top-secret government, and top-secret agent Alex must retrieve it. Unfortunately for him, the only man who can help him sneak into the criminal’s home to find out where the plane has been hidden is non-top-secret boxer Kelly, who is, of course, as I said before, played by Eddie Murphy. Now, with time running out, both of the men must work together…unless they kill each other first.

“I Spy” should perhaps have been named “Top Secret,” but I suppose that would infringe copyright on the film of the same name with Val Kilmer. Anywho, regardless of the title of the film, it was surprisingly funny and good-natured – yes, I said it was funny.

Going into the film I didn’t expect much. I thought this would be a mix between “Showtime” and all those other clichéd spy spoofs; even though I think Owen Wilson is a good actor, I didn’t have high hopes for any chemistry between him and Murphy. I was wrong.

Eddie Murphy uses his talent to full advantage, for once. He makes funny remarks and talks about himself in third-person perspective. Yes, this may sound very dry, but it is surprisingly funny, especially a scene where some gun-wielding baddies are chasing Murphy and Wilson, and Murphy’s character does not wish to jump on a scooter with Wilson’s character. When bullet shots ring next to Murphy’s ears, he changes his mind, and yells “Kelly Robinson is jumpin’ on the scooter!” and hops on and they roar off. It doesn’t sound funny; but quite frankly, it just is; watching Wilson’s deadpan expressions towards Murphy’s statements are just funny.

There are some areas of the film that leave a sour taste in the mouth, and some childish statements. There is one particular scene involving Alex making a move on Famke’s character, and I felt it was pretty funny up until they kept showing her underwear as if making a plea to attract teenagers. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that, really, but it was like “The Tuxedo” with Jackie Chan – they just had to film Jennifer Love Hewitt in slow-mo walking by a pool for NO reason whatsoever. It didn’t help the story at all. While the scene in “I Spy” does carry some character progression, the underwear scene got a BIT over-the-top, especially when it exceeded forty-five seconds. The bit with Kelly singing a soul-song into Alex’s headpiece in an attempt to win Famke’s “heart” was funny, but like I said, right past that part it was too much. Too much underwear = looking desperate.

Anyway, all films have their flaws. But overall, I was impressed with “I Spy.” It delivered some good chemistry, some good laughs and some good action segments. Sure, the story’s been done a hundred times before. Sure, the chemistry wasn’t the greatest. Sure, there were scenes that could have been cut or edited, and sure; there were also some jokes that fell flat. But I’ll tell you what; I’m not looking for anything but what “I Spy” had in a spy-buddy spoof.

My summary: Not great, but worth an hour-and-a-half of your life.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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