In My Spy, Dave Bautista becomes the latest action-star-turned-actor to hop into the realm of kids’ movies and play a gruff cop / secret agent / tooth fairy forced to content with a wisecracking street-smart kid in need of a father figure. Originally slated for an April theatrical release (and even screened more than a month early for critics), it now lands unceremoniously on Friday on Amazon Prime.
Amazon has its share of cool contemporary productions and has sought out to carve a space for itself in distribution, but it’s hard to imagine scrolling through new additions to the Prime library and thinking My Spy isn’t a forgotten theatrical flop from the mid-2000s. Which is not to say it’s a waste of time, money or talent. It simply is what it is — a serviceable excuse for Bautista to use his comedy chops on the big screen without green makeup slathered over his upper body.
We meet J.J. (Bautista), a former SpecOps turned spy, on a mission where his lack of spycraft and patience blows his cover. So he’s assigned a lame bit of surveillance duty alongside Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), a desk agent who admires J.J.’s physical excesses. They keep watch over Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her daughter, Sophie (Chloe Coleman), whose household was split when Kate’s ex-husband’s secret criminal life got him “taken out” of the equation. Puns like this are frequent throughout My Spy, so prepare yourself.
Not to say that My Spy leans heavily on easy punchlines and silly gags that more or less boil down to shredding traditional masculine action-movie stereotypes that have been righteously confetti’d by parodies of this sort for longer than those stereotypes were actually prominent. Bautista is made to dance, dress nicely, be empathetic. Sophie breaks the fourth wall frequently to remind him he’s a walking stereotype while slowly embracing how awesome it is to be learning all his secret techniques. We’ve seen it all before, countless times, in movies like Kindergarten Cop, The Pacifier, Tooth Fairy, and Playing with Fire.
Bautista is a particularly likable presence onscreen. He holds the movie together, avoiding the feeling of an actor slumming it. “Committed” is a good word for it. As with his more prominent comedic roles like Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, he’s funniest when allowed to be dry, and thankfully the opportunities are plentiful. Look, My Spy is a pretty dumb, silly movie. Nothing special, but nothing offensive or awful or especially memorable. A sweet distraction.