Oh, the wacky, unlikely match of the fast talkin', bad-ass Eddie Murphy and the slow-talkin' pure-hearted Owen Wilson in the new buddy flick, "I Spy". One is black and one is blonde! How funny! Yeah, well, not as much as you'd think. And before you get your hopes up too much, the only thing this film has in common with the cool 60s TV show starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp, is the title - even the lead character names have been switched for some inside-joke reason.
Murphy is Kelly Robinson, a star-status boxer with a fast mouth and a slick lifestyle. Wilson is Alexander Scott, a low-level bumbling spy who is forever getting stuck with the lamest gadgets at the BNS, the Bureau of National Security. The high-grade James Bond stuff usually goes to his arch nemesis, Carlos, a pony-tailed oily bohunk surprisingly played by Gary Cole - the character is expendable to the point of annoyance.
In the lamest premise I can recall, Kelly and Alex are forced to work together to re-capture a super stealth plane from evil salesman, Gundars, played by Malcom McDowell, who can play the villain role in his sleep, which, in fact, he does. Anyway, guess what? Kelly and Alex don't hit it off right at first but boy-o-boy the roots of friendship soon take place once they realize what a great time they are having together! Brotherhood and love, ebony and ivory! Yippee.
Mind you, the film has its moments, such as when ace loverman Kelly coaches Alex in the art of seduction. With a spy ear-plant device, Kelly feeds him the right lines as Alex does his best to say them verbatim. The lovely Rachel, played by Famke Janssen, doesn't know what to make of a fumbling, sweaty Alex talking through the lyrics of "Sexual Healing" as if he is trying to rationalize global warming. She, like us, is confused and then seized by the hilarity.
The trouble with this film is that the script is not even strong enough to wipe up spilled milk. What a letdown; Murphy and Wilson should have another chance at it with a project that could meet them at their own level. As it was, Murphy just did his stand-up act and Wilson was merely a caricature of himself. 'Twas not the hardest dollar (give or take a few million) that either man has ever earned.
If only Wes Andersen or Owen Wilson himself could've given some wry infusion into the plot. Shoulda/would/coulda. There is one character-developing scene in a Hungarian sewer where the natural comedic talents of Murphy and Wilson are allowed to run free but it's all just too contrived before and after that.
It feels like one of those throwaway films, the titles of which easily fade from memory. "I Spy" teeters indecisively on whether it wants to be a real spy flick or spoof of one. It ends up being neither one. I went in to the theatre with some high hopes but it ended up being a disappointing dump in the pants.
© 2002 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 11/6/02
USA - 2002