Whether he worked with James Gunn, Sam Mendes, or Denis Villeneuve, it's hard not to respect the path Dave Bautista has taken with his acting career. He spent time honing his craft in smaller supporting roles while placing himself in positions where he could learn from some of the brightest talents in the industry. Now that he's a bonafide household name, and arguably the best actor to come out of the WWE, it was inevitable that Hollywood would come calling with leading roles, looking to cash in on his Guardians of the Galaxy fame.
Unfortunately, things didn't start as smoothly as expected. Stuber was not well-received (deservedly so), and My Spy kept getting pushed back on the release calendar, leading many to think that we were in store for another clunker. When the pandemic hit, and everything went into lockdown, My Spy was thrown onto Amazon Prime (in Canada) with little to no advertisement. I immediately queued it up and was surprisingly excited to watch it. The writers, while not great, had at least written one enjoyable movie (RED), and the director, Peter Segal, is a vet with a proven track record in the action-comedy genre (Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Get Smart). How bad could it be?
In My Spy, Dave Bautista plays a former Army Ranger turned CIA officer, who after a series of mishaps, befriends the family he was tasked with surveilling. You don't need to know anything more to fill in all the blanks. The movie is about as paint-by-numbers as it gets. That said, I didn't hate it. My Spy is charming. It's a story you know already, but because of Peter Segal's direction and ability to create a lighthearted atmosphere, you don't mind hearing it again.
Dave Bautista looks much more at home in My Spy than he did in Stuber and the fact that the gags are tailored specifically for his dry, Drax-ish delivery made for a lot more laughs. His chemistry with Chloe Coleman, the young Sophie, is top-notch. The movie is at its best when it focuses on their relationship and the different ways that they're helping each other through tough times. Coleman is a star in the making. I also enjoyed her in Upload so I'm interested to see what she does next.
Kristen Schaal, who plays his partner Bobbi, feels wasted. She's incredibly funny and has some of the best lines, so I would like to have seen more of her. The same goes for Parisa Fitz-Henley, who plays Sophie's mom. Her budding relationship with J.J. may be corny, but it plays well into the loving vibe of the film. The rest of the cast do fine, but no one stands out as being particularly memorable.
As I mentioned before, the narrative is a pastiche of any number of family films. Bautista's character's incompetence makes him feel like a friendlier Home Alone villain, all while balancing a Kindergarten Cop/Parent Trap gimmick. There are some truly laugh out loud moments, the first date and school art show jump out immediately, but there are other times when the dialogue loses its snap and falls too heavily into cliches. Poking fun at rom-com and action genre tropes works for a while but wears thin quickly. I would have preferred something more original, but for younger audiences who haven't been inundated with this story for decades, it might prove to be a memorable viewing experience.
My Spy plays to Dave Bautista's strengths while providing him with another opportunity to gain experience leading a film. The movie leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the writing and action/visual effects, but it wound up being better than expected. The dynamic between the main characters is endearing and allows you to invest in their journey. This is a family-friendly film that I think everyone will be able to find some enjoyment in.
My Spy will be making its U.S. debut on Friday, June 26, exclusively on Prime Video.