When CIA operative JJ Cena (Dave Bautista) is tasked with keeping an eye on the recently bereaved Newton family, his devices are soon found by Sophie (Chloe Coleman). In order to keep his secrecy, he starts teaching his new ward the skills of spycraft.
At some point in their career, any wrestler turned actor will need to star in a comedy where they are the unlikely protector of a child. It is as inevitable as the tides or that Morrissey will say something provocative when he has a new album coming out. But as it stands 'My Spy' is a better film than you might hope for and is an enjoyable enough romp.
At the outset, it certainly is a film greater than the sum of its parts. While it has a few comedy stalwarts to help beef it out, they don’t really get the room they deserve. There is no denying that director Peter Segal has a complete tin ear for comedy. His instincts are so wrong that it makes you wonder why he wants to make comedy in the first place. Any film that he has made that is half decent is good despite his efforts not because of them.
The same is to be said for Bautista. He does have a decidedly weird screen presence so with a capable director like James Gunn it can be harnessed well but left to his own devices his comedic instincts are lacking. Where his strengths lie is being earnest and looking out of place, and both of these are used effectively in the film, thus we have a likeable protagonist without it being overly stressed.
But this is the magic of cinema that somehow it all comes together to work but not always in the ways expected. There are a lot of varied jokes in the film and while some will dislike the inconsistency this creates, it works to keep things fresh as the film proceeds. What the filmmaker's think are the big gags never quite land because they are telegraphed too early. But there are just lots of nice asides and quips that are not really sold, so these naturalist ones come off a lot better.
Chloe Coleman’s performance does do a huge amount of heavy lifting. She’s witty and sarcastic but it never starts to grate as it so often can with this type of character. It is largely to do with totally sidestepping a snotty attitude and sympathetically fleshing out the character. Kristen Schaal and Ken Jeong have small rolls that could have done with being expanded but they do bring some needed pedigree to the titular characters.
'My Spy' is an acceptable family-friendly comedy romp. You might not be leaving the cinema with your sides in stitches but it certainly packs more laughs than expected.