There’s an opinion, common in certain film fan communities on the Internet, that carries the belief that kids’ movies are too treacly, inoffensive and mild-mannered for the little darlings’ own good.
I don’t necessarily think they’re wrong. Children are exposed to a lot of words, action tropes and screen violence — via every screen in their lives — before they hit second grade. Maybe they’re more sophisticated consumers of what we used to call “adult content” than we give them credit for.
For those folks, who figure “Goonies” and kids-mixed-up-in-foul-mouthed mayhem is a touchstone, we give you “My Spy.” It’s about a child who stumbles into a C.I.A. stakeout, blackmails an embarrassed agent into befriending her and courting her mom, and is exposed to the odd shootout, killing and curse word in the process.
I can’t say it’s very good, because it isn’t. But the magnificent walking, talking, pratfall-taking sight gag that is Dave Bautista? Well cast.
Bautista is an ex-Army Ranger turned C.I.A. spy who blows his big undercover plutonium purchase in Putin-land by slinging the worst “Russian arms dealer” accent in the history of the Cold War.
“Take an ACTING class, for God’s sake!” a villain hisses, in an equally bad accent.
That’s when man-mountain J.J. does what he knows how to do — “Kick ass.”
Those bothered by such things can start the movie’s body count here. Maybe a dozen villains bite the dust. No blood, but explosions can separate one’s head from one’s body.
J.J.’s boss (Dr. Ken Jeong, not given a single funny thing to do.) isn’t happy with this outcome. He sentences J.J. to surveillance duty in Chicago, paired up with tech nerd Bobbie (Kristen Schaal). They’re watching the widow (Parisa Fitz-Henley) of a guy whose brother (Greg Bryk) is mixed up in this bomb building/buying/selling scheme.
Maybe the bad guy will turn up. Or maybe the widow’s curly-haired 9-year-old will figure out their apartment’s bugged and who did the bugging. And maybe Sophie, whose nurse-mom can’t take her to that school ice-skating party, will keep her yap shut and her video of their stakeout apartment off “the cloud” is Agent Shrek will provide “adult supervision.
And maybe the kid will push her luck, blackmailing J.J. into all sorts of kiddie activities.
Here’s what made me laugh — every time the Incredible Hulk-ista considers the ruthless, risk-free option for dealing with this three and a half foot tall threat.
“Kill her,” he suggests to google-eyed Bobbie. “Make it look like an accident. The stairs, maybe?”
Other versions of this, told to the kid’s face, end with “and they never find the body.”
J.J.’s other sure-fire laugh elements are his size — no suit fits him — and the violent line of work that’s made him tactless and unfiltered in”war stories” dinner conversation.
“By that time we were drinking our own urine…”
The kid is cute and has a light touch, by insufferable child actor standards.
The gay neighbors, played by Devere Rogers and Noah Dalton Danby? Kids are never too young to learn gay stereotypes.
“Oh my Lord & Taylor!”
But scenes where J.J. gives her spy training and lessons in how to walk slowly away from an explosion like all the cool spies do “in the movies” did nothing for me. Giving all of those away in the TV commercials and trailers doesn’t help.
So, not much here for adults. And if you’re the least bit squeamish about how old your child should be before she or he is ready for an action comedy with a body count, well you’ve been warned.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action/violence and language.
Cast: Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Kristen Schaal, Greg Byrk and Ken Jeong
Credits: Directed by Peter Segal, script by Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber. An STX release.
Running time: 1:39