‘My Spy’ review: Dave Bautista is outsmarted by a nine-year-old in generation-spanning family flick

The 'Guardians of the Galaxy' star attempts a Dwayne Johnson-style career reboot

Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Spectre) surely has an eye on Dwayne Johnson’s impressive career trajectory, and this action-comedy from experienced director Peter Segal (Get Smart, 50 First Dates) lets him show off his bants as well as his brawn. Sadly, it’s too tonally uneven and wildly unrealistic to succeed as anything other than a passable popcorn flick.

Bautista plays JJ, a physically formidable but somewhat sloppy CIA operative who’s been demoted by his exasperated boss (Ken Jeong, giving much less energy here than he does on bonkers gameshow The Masked Singer). Alongside enthusiastic but inexperienced tech expert Bobbi (Flight of the Conchords’ Kristen Schaal), he’s assigned a dull job surveilling the widow of a dead criminal (The Sinner’s Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her super-bright nine-year-old daughter Sophie (Big Little Lies’ Chloe Coleman). Sophie quickly spots that their apartment has been bugged, blows their cover and cuts a deal with JJ: she won’t tell her mum they’re being watched as long as he teaches her how to be a spy.

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It’s a silly but not unpromising premise which My Spy can’t resist complicating by having JJ and Fitz-Henley’s Kate become an item at the same time. Actually, for a stretch in the middle, My Spy feels more like a rom com than anything else as JJ gets “Queer Eye-d” by the gay couple next door and begins to shed his emotionally repressed exterior. A scene in which JJ shows off his not entirely convincing dance moves to Cardi B’s Latin trap banger ‘I Like It’ seems shamelessly designed to spawn a meme, but Bautista throws himself into it gamely.

My Spy
Kristen Schaal and Dave Bautista in ‘My Spy’. Credit: STX

Formulaic? For sure, but this film has some fun along the way: there’s a decent twist towards the end and a witty set-piece in which Bautista and Coleman send up the naff action flick trope of looking badass in front of an exploding truck. My Spy has enough thrills, spills and lols to pass the time, and Bautista carries it all capably, but it doesn’t blend its competing genre elements with enough flair to make it a must-see. Even at its most entertaining, this film never really gets you to suspend your disbelief and invest in its characters. For now at least, Dwayne Johnson has nothing to worry about.

Details

  • Director: Peter Segal
  • Starring: Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Kristen Schaal
  • Release date: March 13
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