Leaving aside I SPYs misogynist subtext that casts women as either mindless playthings or castrating bitches, lets focus on the real problem. Instead of bouncing along on farce and the chemistry of its co-stars, it chugs along bravely on its formula track to mediocrity. Its not particularly bright, either, so really, the only thing to do is pitch our expectations way low and muddle through as best we can.
This putative buddy comedy purports to be the big screen version of the 60s television spy show of the same name. In that one, Bill Cosby, as Alexander Scott, broke all kinds of new ground by being the first black co-star of a major drama series. He was also the one with the brains, the agency guy and Rhodes scholar to Robert Culps playboy dim-bulb tennis star, Kelly Robinson. The movie doesnt so much expand that premise to the big screen as throw it out entirely leaving only the names and the spy premise intact.
The plot involves a nefarious scheme hatched by arms dealer Malcolm MacDowell, walking through this wreck unscathed with his usual brand of smooth evil, to sell a super nifty invisible jet to the highest bidder. For some reason, this involves teaming agency guy Alexander Scott with superstar boxer Kelly Robinson. Scott, played by Owen Wilson, is a semi-bumbler playing perpetual second-fiddle to the agencys suave super spy, Carlos. Robinson is played by Eddie Murphy, who is doing the same puffed-up homeboy schtick hes been doing for 20 years and at this point even he looks bored with it. Wilson, on the other hand, exudes a sweet befuddlement whether hes broken his leg, fretting about the better equipment that the agency gives Carlos, or pitching woo at the lady spy of his dreams. Hes got an earnest seriousness that makes for terrific, seemingly effortless comic timing and thats harder than it sounds considering what hes got to work with. That would be Murphy, who has based his performance on the premise that mugging at the camera will always save the day.
It’s hate at first sight, of course, it always is in these films, but between pretending to crash a plane and a seroius bonding session in a Hungarian sewer, they develop a working relationship that never quite turns into something that’s fun. The guys get into and out of all sorts of tight spots that usually involve the usual chase sequences and big explosions. What they cant escape, though, are the plot holes the size of Kansas, the worst of which is using the most famous athlete in the world to do undercover work. Yeah, the worlds paparazzi arent going to notice him sneaking away from his latest championship bout, the one televised worldwide, to go save Scott from the baddies. As for humor, we have Murphy’s character reminiscing about his grandmother. She was the first to punch him in the face back when he was a baby, thereby proving that she loved him.
Its just a darn shame that the people responsible for this cant start over again from scratch, forget about making an Eddie Murphy vehicle, and send Wilsons Scott out again. Hes worth watching, even if his film isnt.