|"I Spy" Movie Review
Owen Wilson, Eddie Murphy and Famke Janssen in "I Spy."
©2002 Columbia Pictures
I didn't have high hopes when I sat down for a screening of "I Spy." Let's face it, there haven't been that many good buddy films recently and Eddie Murphy's last couple of films have been real disappointments (Did anyone see "Pluto Nash?"). But I am a fan of Owen Wilson and of Eddie Murphy's earlier cinematic offerings, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and go into "I Spy" with a mostly open mind.
"I Spy" took me by surprise. The pacing was fast, the jokes hit their marks (at least the majority of them did) and though the plot was convoluted, the script allowed Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy to play around and have fun with the project. Wilson and Murphy scored solid laughs with the preview audience and the film fairly flew by, being just slightly over an hour and a half in length. The chemistry was dynamite, much better than I anticipated, with Wilson playing the perfect straight man to Murphy's over-the-top, narcissistic character. Wilson has that great every man type of aura that makes you believe he is whoever he plays - the basically normal guy who gets caught up in abnormal situations and then wonders how the heck to get himself out of trouble. Murphy recaptures that spark he had before the "Dr. Doolittle" films, close to that edginess that his stand-up act used to thrive on.
Based loosely on the classic "I Spy" television series starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, this version reverses the two characters and adds more blatant attempts at humor than the TV series. Owen Wilson plays Alex Scott, a secret agent who isn't looked upon with high regard by the higher ups. Eddie Murphy is Kelly Robinson, a middleweight champion boxer/ladies man who is on a first name basis with the President of the United States and travels with an entourage that could rival any rap star's.
Robinson is enlisted by the President to assist Scott on a top-secret mission to retrieve a stolen fighter jet nicknamed 'Switchblade.' The plane has fallen into the hands of an arms dealer, Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell), who intends to sell it to the highest bidder. Robinson and Kelly reluctantly pair up for this dangerous mission, traveling to Budapest and using Robinson's championship boxing match there as a cover.
Amidst their search for the plane (did I mention it's invisible?), Scott and Robinson verbally spar, and ultimately bond in a sewer scene that is one of the movie's funniest. Joining Scott and Robinson on their mission is Rachel (Famke Janssen), a sexy secret agent who Scott has the hots for. With Robinson playing the role of a modern-day hip Cyrano de Bergerac, Scott unloads his feelings to Rachel by reciting the words Robinson feeds him - the lyrics to "Sexual Healing."
Witty, action-packed, and everything a good buddy movie should be, "I Spy" is a good popcorn movie. Forget about the plot and just enjoy the onscreen chemistry between two funny actors who appear to be enjoying themselves.
Overall Grade: B