Saturday 4 April 2015

Movie Review: I Spy (2002)

A real stinker of a buddy cop comedy, I Spy is about 20 years behind the times in both premise and execution.

US national security secret agent Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) is meek and hesitant, and resents the superstar status of his colleague Carlos (Gary Cole), who always seems to get the latest and best spy gizmos to play with. Alex's next mission is in Budapest, where he is to connect with beautiful Agent Rachel Wright (Famke Janssen) and recover a missing state of the art "switchblade" stealth military jet. International arms dealer Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell) has stolen the jet and is about to auction it off to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile arrogant world boxing champion Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) easily improves his record to 57-0 and sets up his next title defense in Budapest. Alex's plan is to infiltrate Arnold's swish party by pretending to be part of Kelly's glamourous entourage. The secret agent and the boxer immediately clash and have difficulty working together, but once in Budapest they are forced to cooperate to escape from a continuous stream of trouble.

Directed by Betty Thomas and with up to six different writers having a hand in cobbling together an atrocious script, it is difficult to believe just how lame I Spy is. This is the sort of film that went out of style in the mid-1980s, around the time of efforts such as Spies Like Us (1985). Somehow, the I Spy producers (including 1980s stalwarts Mario Kassar and Hungary's Andrew G. Vajna) believed that warming over stale elements from a bygone era when Murphy was at his prime would pass for entertainment. It does not.

The jokes are not funny, the characters are bland, and the premise is tired. The action scenes are nothing short of excruciating and primarily wallow in the muck of derivation. The relationship between the two men is an awful rehash of countless previous teamings between cop and civilian. The character of Alex Scott is a mix of juvenile and imbecilic, and his childish lusting after Rachel Wright is simply embarrassing. Murphy's motor mouth offers the few moments of relief, but the days when his fresh edge could save a movie are long gone. McDowell and Janssen mail in their performances with insufficient postage to arrive in Budapest.

I Spy with my little eye a pathetic turkey.

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