If you’re a wrestling fan or one of the benefactors of Hollywood’s darkest secrets, then you may know of the movie deal that every major wrestler seeking a career outside of body-slamming enters into. It’s a cursed monkey’s paw of sorts, except instead of a withered finger curling down as the agreement is reached, one must take a dodgeball to the testicles kicked at you by an adorable moppet. Do you want to be a film star, John Cena? Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, are you ready to hit the big leagues? Hulk Hogan, why are you still here? They’re here because they know. Sure, they’ll get their Hollywood shine, but they must adhere to the deal: They must make their family buddy movie with a wisecracking kid.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s a veritable rite-of-passage for any man with muscles big enough to crush beer cans ready to prove their mettle as dramatic thespians. What’s funnier than a giant of a man being taken down by human beings barely old enough to put on their own seatbelts? Think Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop or Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny or Vin Diesel in The Pacifier or The Rock in The Tooth Fairy or even Ice Cube in Are We There Yet? Look, these guys only have a few solid years where they have the strength and tolerance to deal with those endless chairs to the shoulder blades, so they need a back-up option. It’s probably a better retirement plan than whatever Vince McMahon is offering them. Just play second fiddle to some precocious wiener kid for 85 to 100 minutes and Hollywood will welcome you with open arms. Well, that or they’ll just call The Rock and get him to do it all. Sorry, Vin.
And that’s where we find ourselves with My Spy and one Dave Bautista. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised it’s taken Drax the Destroyer this long to do one of these movies. I’m not sure how he got the cursed monkey’s paw to agree to the delay. Maybe he offered up a sacrifice of some sort. That could explain how John Cena ended up in the one-two punch of Playing With Fire and Dolittle. Credit to Bautista, who managed to get in both a Blade Runner sequel AND a f**king Werner Herzog movie before serving his adorable moppet movie sentence.
I would write down the synopsis of My Spy here but come on, you know this movie. You could predict the entire story by looking at the poster. These films are plucked from the same wilting tree, packed up from the same assembly line. You could set your watch to this movie, its beats and tropes are so predictable. I’m pretty sure this shtick was dated even when Arnie and Hulk were doing it. These films, with giant men and the obnoxious kids who take them down a notch to teach them the importance or family or some crap like that (and always shot in Toronto but never set there), exist for lazy babysitting duties and C.V. filler. And product placement. So much product placement. The kids do love Doritos.
But enough about that: How is the movie itself? Is it excruciating or merely just forgettable? Like Earth as written by Douglas Adams, it’s mostly harmless, too competent to really get the blood pumping but too safely played to justify its own existence. Peter Segal, director of such classics as The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and Grudge Match, really wants to stretch his action movie muscles here, as evidenced by an opening scene full of gratuitous slo-mo that reads as an open invitation to the John Wick team, albeit with no blood despite the massive amount of bullets fired because, y’know, kids. A pencil to the face would have livened up proceedings, honestly. Also, how is it that even in a f**king family movie, we still need a Middle Eastern terrorist baddie, even for one piddling scene? Is Hollywood afraid that tweens are getting anti-imperialist too early these days?
Like I said, there’s very little here to write home about Bautista is charming but phoning it in. Kristen Schaal is quirky but phoning it in (oh but for a smidgen of some Louise Belcher chaos energy here.) Ken Jeong has dialed his usual shtick down considerably but is still, shockingly, phoning it in. Chloe Coleman, who you may recognize from Big Little Lies, is very sweet and fortunately is given more to do than be yet another wise-cracking saccharine tweeny-bopper. The cuter and occasionally smirk-inducing moments are recycled from about seventeen different movies and are so well-worn that they have holes in them. You can hardly blame the cast for this display of quarter-assed work, though. It’s not like the director asks much of them. The script is practically apologizing for its own existence.
I’m 30 next month, which means I’m about three times too old for this movie, but I’m not sure that the youths these days are aching for a movie like My Spy. If they want funny Dave Bautista, they have several Marvel movies to choose from, and if they want family fun times with a wrestler then uncle Dwayne’s got them covered. Kids these days will sit through as many hours as the Avengers and daddy Kevin Feige tells them to, but at one hour and forty, My Spy feels achingly long. At least Sonic the Hedgehog gave us James Marsden and a cracking breast-feeding joke.
Maybe you’re tired of Disney+ marathons at home with the kids right now and think My Spy would be an amiable substitute, but if you really want to introduce your kid to some kick-ass fun, just get a John Wick movie. Look, they have to learn about the good lord Keanu at some point in their lives. Bautista won’t mind. He’s got Dune coming up and now he is done with the adorable moppet movie contract. Run free, Dave. Let Monsieur Villeneuve be your savior.
My Spy is now available on Amazon.
Header Image Source: STX Entertainment