Every time you think Hollywood has finally got it figured out and is about to make a decent film again, along comes something like “I Spy” – a movie which screeches ‘an executive with a high concept’ idea which hopes to cash in on the teaming of the currently funny Owen Wilson and the previously funny Eddie Murphy in a Mission: Impossible/James Bond esque actioneer with comedy elements. A similar effort was tried back in the 80’s and resulted in the admittedly fun “Spies Like Us” with Dan Aykroyd & Chevy Chase. This time around though the attempt is a complete failure and has little or no connection with the TV series on which its supposedly based – short of the title that is.
Wilson has shown with the right pairing (ie. Chan or Stiller) he can be a great comic foil, and Murphy when given the right material can still shine. Sadly both are given rather sucky B-grade schlock from a villian’s scheme which rips its idea entirely off “The Philadelphia Experiment”, to standard spoofs of spy gadgets which could be funny – but as delivered by Wilson in his standard whiny voice its annoying as hell. Famke Janssen is a little bit more redeemed as the female foil, whilst Malcolm McDowell thankfully keeps it understated as the villain.
Sequence after sequence reeks of set pieces (and bad ones at that) and the story ultimately has no real point or underlying joke. For an action comedy there’s few laughs, everything is so setup that you know the punchline minutes before its finally delivered. The action elements are even less inspiring with nothing particularly memorable, whilst the whole loyalty shifting twists become so absurd by the end you want to give up and jump in the river. Short of the cast and the mega budget spent on locations mostly, this is a shockingly ordinary effort from a major studio.