November 14, 2002

I Think I Spy …

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Yet again, we have a spy movie complete with the same generic storyline, overly dramatic explosions, and no suspense at all. The only thing that kept I Spy from being a complete waste of my time was because it had two quality actors as the main characters: Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy.

I must admit, however, this movie was a lot better than the last projects the two worked on, Behind Enemy Lines and The Adventures of Pluto Nash, respectively. With its dynamic stars, I Spy should have been a much better movie, but paired with its incredibly silly storyline, the movie feels more like Spy Kids than Rush Hour.

The film centers on the chance partnership between cunning spy Alex (Wilson) and World Boxing Champion Kelly Robinson (Murphy) who must work together to find an invisible plane. Using the World Boxing Championships as an excuse, Kelly and Alex head off to Hungary, where the plane is supposedly hidden.

With Kelly’s superstardom, they easily infiltrate the party that billionaire evildoer Gundars (Malcolm McDowell) is holding as a cover for auctioning off the plane. But then Alex’s tendency for bad luck and Kelly’s impulsive nature complicate their mission, and the two are soon being shot at by Gundars’ best goons.

In the beginning, Alex and Kelly are, of course, greatly irritated by one another. Alex is annoyed by Kelly’s outrageous, rapper-music-video-esque lifestyle, and Kelly feels confined by Alex’s rules and demands. However, with some sweet-talking by Alex and his fellow spy, Rachel (Famme Jansen), Kelly soon becomes enticed by all the cool gadgets the spy world has to offer, including contact lenses that serve as cameras and tiny walkie-talkies that fit on your ear. Those two devices later come in handy during a hilarious scene where Kelly teaches Alex how to seduce Rachel.

Halfway through the movie, Alex and Kelly reach an epiphany while sharing an intimate moment twenty feet below the surface in a sewer full of human waste. “You know,” Alex begins, “Strip away the boxing, strip away the money, the women, and you and I are pretty much the same person.” In much the same way, strip away all the explosions, car chases, superfluous costars from the movie, and you pretty much end up with the same blank screen with which you started. Well, maybe a little better actually.

It is no exaggeration that Wilson and Murphy are both extremely talented comedians, but their strengths are greatly diluted by I Spy’s ridiculous plot. Murphy speeds through all of his lines like an exothermic reaction gone haywire. And though his energy is at times charming and catchy, some audience members may tire of his exuberance. Wilson is likeable in his role as well, as the ambitious but under appreciated spy who always ends up being outshone by superspy Carlos (Gary Cole).

But in the end, the flashy action scenes and the absurd plot twists manage to suffocate the potential of the two stars. Despite Murphy and Wilson’s best efforts, I Spy is nothing but a failed mission.

Archived article by Yiwei Wang