Friday 13 March 2020

"My Spy" (Guardian 13/03/20)

My Spy **
Dir: Peter Segal. With: Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Kristen Schaal. 99 mins. Cert: 12A.

Here is a genially mediocre throwback to what has always been a rite-of-passage for the American cinema’s frontline action men: the meathead-softener, in which a musclebound star demonstrates how good he is with kids, the better to establish a pension fund of pocket money that may come in useful when their knees finally give out. Stomping along in the heavy-set and highly profitable footsteps of Arnie in Kindergarten Cop, Hulk Hogan in Suburban Commando and practically The Rock’s entire filmography, we now find erstwhile galaxy-guardian Dave Bautista, cast here as a rough-edged CIA ass-kicker handed the last-chance assignment of babysitting tack-sharp, fatherless tween Chloe Coleman.

The ideal viewer would, like Coleman, be anyone too young to have suffered Vin Diesel in The Pacifier; accompanying adults will go largely unsurprised, maybe mildly diverted. After raising a 12A-rated terror threat, writers Jon and Erich Hoeber pause for an hour so our guy can bond with the moppet and her mom (Parisa Fitz-Henley), whose panicky plumbing blunders are a retrograde nudge that she really requires a man about the house. Journeyman director Peter Segal contributes a few spoofy gags that would have slotted into his Naked Gun threequel of 1994, but the most Nineties element is Dominic Lewis’s score, insistently demarcating schtick “heartwarming” or “comic”, however lame the latter gets. (And Dancing Dave is pretty lame.)

Gruff, roundheaded, not unlike a jacked Phil Collins, Bautista remains amiable company, although he seems bemused at having to take dodgeballs to the face this early in his movie career, and perhaps by the mixed messaging. After doing all formulaic fluff like this can to persuade us America needs tough guys to watch over its young, My Spy climaxes with a group effort to repel its nondescript Eurovillains, then a polite request for equal pay. Lowish-level titters ensue – mostly care of Kristen Schaal, very much doing the Kristen Schaal thing as Dave’s tech aide – while an analogue finale on a scrappy-looking airfield offers passing respite from the multiplex’s usual VFX-bloated citysmashing. Still, I wouldn’t risk contracting the Coronavirus for the rest of it. 

My Spy opens in cinemas nationwide today. But let's be careful out there.

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