My Spy is about as good a movie as JJ is a spy. Which is to say: not at all. In fact, when JJ (Dave Bautista) is assigned to surveil a mother and daughter with techie Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), they are almost immediately made by Sophie (Chloe Coleman), their 9 year old target. Not just made, but caught on tape contemplating her murder. And instead of admitting the mission has been compromised, JJ then proceeds to allow himself to be blackmailed by said little girl into teaching her spycraft, dating mom Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), and generally posing as the daddy figure she so craves. But he’s understandably loathe to admit defeat because already this assignment was more of a punishment than a true mission. He’s a terrible spy, a lousy dresser, and an awful dancer.
Dave Bautista has no business being a leading man. I can’t help but think the director and/or producers agree since the script often sounds like it was written with Dwayne Johnson in mind, but The Rock is a legit movie star and can spot stinkers more easily that the Bautistas and the John Cenas, who are, frankly, lucky to get any work at all. Well, maybe I’m being a little hard on them. I think Bautista is actually very well cast in the Guardians movies. [Insert silence here, where I’m not saying anything at all since I truly do not have a single nice word to say about Cena]. But even Johnson started off doing things like The Tooth Fairy as he proved to Hollywood that he had what it takes. But he does. He knows his limits, he’s not trying to elbow his way into a Shakespeare adaptation. He chooses roles where his smile and his eyebrow arch are assets, where his muscles are a plot point, where he can ooze charisma and strength in equal measure and coast off the fumes.
Dave Bautista has no charisma, no discernible personality, but I think both he and Cena are trying to coast of Johnson’s fumes. The Rock has proved himself such a Hollywood hit machine that it of course would love to replicate his success, and it eyeballed the heck out of the WWE to see if anyone else would fit the bill. But Dwayne Johnson is a genetic and a talent anomaly. You can’t simply replace him with a similarly oversized man and hope for the best. Bautista is simply a large and lumbering plus-sized blow up doll, and director Peter Segal is too timid to maneuver him into position. A mannequin with its lines taped to its chest would have more character than Bautista does.
John Cena recently tried leading man status on for size in Playing with Fire, which was so bad it made me furious. My Spy isn’t good. Everyone involved recognized this; it was delayed 3 times even before anyone had ever heard of coronavirus. But with the pandemic as a convenient excuse, they’ve quietly released it directly to Amazon Prime, which means if you’re a member, you can watch it for free. And free is the only way this math works out at all. Free means you can give it a try. Free means you can shut it off after 10 minutes without feeling guilty. And, in these trying times of isolation boredom and our desperate need for content, this might do, especially since it is a rare family-friendly, non-animated film. This won’t be anyone’s favourite film, but you can only play so many rounds of go-fish.