Owen Wilson might just be one of the most underrated Hollywood 'funny guys' lighting up the big screen today, but you would have had to put up with a lot of mediocre-at-best films to notice it. He's charming, and has a certain sarcastic appeal to him that forces you to laugh, even when the jokes aren't that funny. I SPY is Wilson's latest adventure, teamed up with Eddie Murphy (is there a film he won't do?) who is just as comical, but a lot more annoying.
I SPY made a very crucial mistake that will mar it in the long run. The makers never decided if this was going to be an action or a comedy. The laughs are high, but the action is so humdrum that I wonder how many of the clichés weren't intentional. The action scenes are so fantastic as if it is mocking the action genre, when in reality it is only mocking itself.
Agent Scott Alex (Own Wilson) and middle-weight boxing champion Kelly Robinson (Murphy) are paired together for a major BNS operation to foil some evil plot that I'm guessing will probably cause some type of catastrophe,…oh, the BNS. Yes, Hollywood has run out of good sounding acronyms for its top secret bureaus and branches of governments that handle foreign terrorists and global situations.
An evildoer named Gundars (Malcolm McDowell) has some how stolen a US spy plane called the Switchblade, that can literally become invisible to the human eye. You'd think this would call for a military strike against the forces that stole it, but the BNS has a better idea. Let's send a smart-aleck crybaby and an annoying as hell boxing champion (do people really make a big deal about middle-weight boxers?) to retrieve the plane.
Kelly becomes involved because his next boxing match conveniently takes place in Hungary, and near the exact location of where Gundars has hidden the plane in order to auction it off to the highest bidding tyrant. His job is never clearly defined, thanks again to no plot, but it has something to do with him creating diversions. Our main man Alex gets the job of flying the plane back home. But there's more. The BNS chose Alex because their number one man, Carlos, is too world renown and his cover would easily be blown.
Here's where you wonder how far they should have gone to sacrifice plot for comedy. There's a scene where Alex's equipment bag is compared to Carlos's. Carlos has all of the high-tech spy gadgetry, while Alex gets the clunky camera that is the size of the microwave. This is indeed, a funny scene. But you have to ask, a mission that is this important; where an invisible plane that fires nuclear missiles is in the hands of some guy with the name Gundars, that you would give Alex some special treatment. In fact, (and believe me, it's no spoiler that I’m telling you that Alex survives in the end) he probably wouldn't have if he didn't steal some of Carlos's devices when no one was looking.
I SPY has the laughs, but it also has its moans. Like a scene where Alex and Kelly are running down the street while four henchmen are literally only ten feet behind them. They've all got machine guns, but not one bullet hits our heroes. Is this a parody of the Rambo movies? Not if you judge it by the consistency of how the rest of the movie flows, in which it does make attempts to be serious.
I SPY has your typical see-thru plot twists, secret agents, an unmarried hot girl agent with a secret agenda, double agents, and even pseudo-double agents. And it was nice to see the movie make fun of the whole spying game, but there are too many flaws and it severely lacks originality. For example, if someone in the movie were to ask, "Is that what you really think of me?" You know the reply will be yes when it should be no.
Yeah I laughed, and you will too. But it was disappointing to see a movie with so much potential get jerked the way it did. Director Betty Thomas exaggerated Murphy's gloating self-absorbed character too much, which often overpowered his humor. You would think that after several near-death experiences, you would actually begin listen to your boss without asking questions. One obscure scene that was probably introduced because both the director and writer are female (just an opinion), is one where a certain spy likes to torture her victims by removing their pants. Is that really necessary? I SPY is funny, but it's just as goofy.