September 15, 2019

I SPY: Attitude Ain't Enough
I SPY (2002)
Starring Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole. Directed by Betty Thomas. (97 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

2002’s I Spy was heavily promoted as “Attitude meets espionage.” That alone probably raised enough red flags for the movie to totally tank at the box office. No film touting its so-called attitude has ever been any good. What the hell is a movie ‘with attitude’ even supposed to look like?

That’s not to say characters with attitude can’t be amusing. Back when he was still funny, Eddie Murphy was the undisputed master of endearing brashness. Those days were long gone by the time of I Spy. As narcissistic pro boxer Kelly Robinson, he’s an overbearing, obnoxious cartoon character. There isn’t a single moment where Kelly is funny or likable. It may not be entirely Eddie’s fault. One gets the impression he was simply told by producers to “do your Eddie Murphy thing,” apparently unaware the novelty had worn off a decade earlier.

The number of card-carrying members in Owen Wilson's fan club, including Owen Wilson.
Then there’s Owen Wilson, who’s never made any film better and rendered some of them worse. He more-or-less plays the same guy in every movie, which is fine if one finds it appealing. I always thought his passive persona was really irritating, certainly ill-suited to playing a secret agent. Here, he mostly serves as straight-man to Eddie’s chest-thumping and to act stupidly twitterpated by Famke Janssen.

Upon meeting Eddie Murphy, Malcolm contemplates a bit of ultra-violence.
The story is generic, the action implausible and dull, including a lengthy chase through Budapest that stretches credibility to its limit. Malcolm McDowell and Gary Cole are completely wasted in supporting roles that fail to exploit their talents. I Spy is ultimately a depressingly cynical film that bares almost no resemblance to the classic TV show that supposedly inspired it. Superficial ‘attitude’ is all it has, and even that has aged badly.


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