The film kicks off without any hesitations amid a trade deal that’s going down with an undercover CIA spy named JJ (Dave Bautista) trying to pass off his poor eastern European accent while doing a trade deal with the Russians. JJ gets jabbed with a comedic reference to American pop culture when the Russian gangster makes fun of his accent, saying its reminiscent of Mickey Rourke’s bad accent in Iron Man 2 (2010). Director Peter Segal employs the typical slow-motion gags amid action with explosions firing off in the background, no-look shooting, nonchalant gunplay with emotionless expressions amid chaotic scenarios. When JJ escapes the dangerous situation by driving off in a Jeep, he tries to change the radio station looking for getaway music, only to find Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ in Russian followed by Britney Spears’ ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’, which sets the tone of this silly action/comedy.
In comes Sophie (Chloe Coleman), a 9-year-old girl that needs to be spied on until they capture a criminal named Marquez (Greg Byrk), who’s also Sophie’s uncle. JJ (Dave Bautista) moves into a grungy apartment with his CIA colleague, Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), who’s going out on the field for the first time in a mission on their latest spy game of Kate (Parisa-Fitz Henley) – the apparent deceased family member of Marquez who just moved in from Paris. She’s the mother of Sophie, who recently just started elementary school. JJ and Bobbi have set-up shop with a half-dozen monitors, surveilling Kate’s home and lifestyle with hidden cameras to surveil from their stakeout apartment. Their mission of this broken family is simple: surveil until Marquez makes contact with them.
When Sophie catches JJ spying on her family, she persuades JJ to train her on how to be a spy. The relationship between Sophie and JJ appears forced and wholly unrealistic. Her defense of his false identity seems implausible and only used to carry the story forward, but since she constantly threatens to post the video of his sting operation she has recorded on her smart phone, JJ complies to everything Sophie requests. But Peter Segal keeps it funny, directing JJ and Sophie with humorous vibes as they interchange overly clever dialogue that comes off as unviable exchanges between the two. We’re supposed to believe that Sophie is a mature and intelligent 9-year-old, when it’s clearly apparent that the young actor Chloe Coleman, who portrays Sophie, is merely reciting clever lines from a witty screenplay – not conjuring up the lines based on her own thoughts. When JJ accompanies Sophie to a ‘Parents and Special Friends’ conference at school, he’s judged with “unkindness” by the young kids in the class, to which he hilariously reveals his true identity as a former Army Ranger and current CIA operative, impressing the students. Ultimately, the film turns into a battle of brainpowers between Sophie and JJ, as Sophie attempts to prove that you don’t need familiarity with espionage tactics in order to outmaneuver a veteran CIA Agent with wits.
Though the former WWE wrestling star-turned-actor, Dave Bautista, possesses a towering stature and testosterone fueled physique, he moves with delicacy and maintains a subtle tone of voice which is a sharp contrast to his appearance, resulting in his bizarre comedic edge. The veteran director Peter Segal (Anger Management, Grudge Match), who graduated from the USC School of Cinema, does what he does best in My Spy, keeping every frame entertaining and the plot moving forward without a loss of interest, but seems to extremely overdo the played-out sequence of actors performing calm strides as things explode in the background. Nevertheless, Segal’s films aren’t supposed to be taken seriously and its precisely this light-hearted tone that keeps his stories entertaining. His films are always filled with heart, intermixed with action and comedy, which makes My Spy the perfect family film – especially if you’re a fan of Bautista’s hilarious facial expressions and reactions. But, this isn’t something we haven’t seen before.