November 2002
I Spy

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

I Spy

Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Director: Betty Thomas
Screenwriter: Marianne & Cormac Wibberley
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Gary Cole, and Malcolm McDowell

With all the sequels and remakes of films that came out this year, someone felt the opportunity to go back in time and make a loose adaptation of a cult TV series. Rather than make a dramatic picture to go along with the series, they wanted a new spin to it. What better way than cast two guys whom can actually pull it off? Throw in a far-fetched plot with some great action scenes and you have a good commercial film for today’s audience. I SPY is an outrageous action comedy that would make Bill Cosby and Robert Culp proud of Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson.

With the roles reversed from the TV series, Eddie Murphy plays Kelly Robinson, an undefeated champion boxer at 57-0. Owen Wilson plays Special Agent Alexander Scott who’s not the best at his job. When Alexander gets his next mission, to uncover the whereabouts of a super stealth plane named the “The Switchblade”, he thinks it’s his best chance to go on a stakeout with his knockout colleague Rachel (Famke Janssen). What he didn’t realized is that in order for his cover to work; he would need the assistance of a civilian, namely Kelly. Seems that Kelly has a fight in Budapest where the plane is supposedly hidden and the person behind the theft (Malcolm McDowell) is there to offer it to the highest bidder. Reluctantly agreeing to work with Kelly, who is as loud-headed as any person can be, Alexander must teach him how to be a spy while Kelly prepares for his fight. At the same time, both of them have to avoid the many pitfalls that come by when danger is ahead.

What makes this loose adaptation of the TV series work is the chemistry between Murphy and Wilson. Murphy is just hilarious as the street-wise boxer who doesn’t act naïve to being a spy. He embraces the fun that comes with the job including the gadgets. It’s also good to see Murphy back to his comedic form after his earlier bombs that came out this year (SHOWTIME, THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH). Wilson is just as funny as Murphy but not on the same level. With Murphy carrying the load of funny dialogue, Wilson needed to be somewhat resigned in his part as a spy for the character to work and he nailed it. The scene with a Marvin Gaye song should be one to remember. The other cast members (McDowell, Janssen, and Cole) are just role players whose talent goes wasted. With the exception of a few predictable scenes, Director Thomas does a good job at keeping the audience laughing throughout the picture that any mistakes are quickly forgotten. I SPY is indeed funny and should be a fun ride for all.

 

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