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I Spy

Starring Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson and Famke Janssen, Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole, Phill Lewis
Screenplay by Marianne Wibberly & Cormac Wibberly and Jay Scherick & David Ronn, based on a television series
Directed by Betty Thomas

IN SHORT: yech. [Rated PG-13 for action violence, some sexual content and language. 107 minutes]

The trailer and television spots for this comedically slanted rehash of a 1960s television drama were so awful that we dreaded the thought of planting for two hours in the dark. That's the last you'll hear of the Robert Culp-Bill Cosby starrer because we don't compare adaptations to Source Material. We couldn't, actually, 'cuz we were far too small to have watched I Spy on the small screen to begin with.

As for this version, seeing Betty Thomas' name with the director's credit made us relax a bit because Ms. T has shown again and again the ability to take movies created as a result of God knows what awful reason and turn out an entertaining product. But three good moments of comedy (add two more that our audience got and we didn't) doesn't make the grade. Ditto a script which on at least two occasions has characters knowing things that they haven't experienced in the story. I Spy doesn't seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be. It's not thrilling or duplicitous enough to be a spy-thriller; it's not funny enough to be a comedy and it doesn't balance any of those elements to keep an audience in their seat until the final credits roll -- at least a third of our crowd got up to leave with at least five minutes of epilog to go.

What story there is involves the teaming of an inept agent for the "Bureau of National Security" and a world famous boxer with the goal of retrieving a stolen Stealth bomber prototype. Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) is the BNS Agent, a run of the mill spy with an obsession for stakeouts and an inferiority complex about a much more suave and sophisticated Agent code named Carlos (Gary Cole). With that bomber located in the possession of Hungarian mobster Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell), Scott needs a good reason to be schlepping around Eastern Europe. Enter Kelly "K.O." Robinson (Eddie Murphy), the middle-weight boxing champion of the world. Robinson's got a 57-0 record, an ego to match and a promise to make his forthcoming match in Belgrade, coincidentally being promoted by Gundars, KO number 58. Scott doesn't like the civilian. Robinson doesn't particularly care to have Scott around, either. That's how you generate real screen chemistry, folks.

Which is why Rachel Wright (Famke Janssen) is in the picture. Wright is yet another secret agent, and one who the tongue tied Alex has got the hots for. Thank Goodness ladies man Robinson is around to lead el dopo around. This particular sequence, utilizing Marvin Gaye's song "Sexual Healing" as dialog, is truly the high point of the film. That doesn't leave much else than a number of chases, some lovely scenery and a surprise twist ending that has been as done to death as the Cyrano shtick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to I Spy, he would have paid . . .



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