A.J.'s Rating: 1 Star (Missed it ... by that much!)
Directed By: Betty Thomas
Written By: Morton Fine & David Friedkin (characters)
Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley, Jay Scherick, David Ronn (screenplay)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Eddie Murphy, Famke Jannsen, Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole
Rated: PG-13 (action violence, some sexual content and language)
Running Time: 96 Min.
In 1965, an incredibly original show about the spy world premiered on American television. With its successful blend of espionage action and wry humor, you would think a big-budget feature version would be sure fire box-office dynamite. But, apparently those in Hollywood aren't ready to tackle Get Smart 2002. They picked the other satirical spy series from 1965 as ripe for a silver screen remake. Would you believe, I Spy?! For those who haven't seen it, television's I Spy starred Bill Cosby and Robert Culp as a fortunately mismatched spy team. It was a pretty good series for the time and broke some ground as far as the 'buddy' formula was concerned, but for some reason doesn't get re-run on television as much as, well, uh, just about any other show you could think of.
Why then did Tinseltown tap this series for a feature film? I can answer that with three little words: SPIESAREIN. James Bond, Austin Powers, Undercover Brother, XXX, and SpyKids to name just a few from this year alone. So, while dredging the vaults to make the old new again, some Hollywood executive realized that the idea of a bickering spy team, one black and the other white, could be funny and exciting. Right... could be.
The pair they chose were the up-and-coming Owen Wilson and the down-and-nearly-out Eddie Murphy. Obviously, neither had anything to lose by making this movie. Other than the fact that Murphy and Wilson are paired as spies, the only other thing this movie has in common with its television counterpart is the title. This is not an update or parody of the series. It's Lethal Weapon, but with spies instead of cops. Whoa! What a concept! As though we haven't already seen that five times. The result is Owen Wilson's worst film since his last action vehicle and Eddie Murphy's worst film since Best Defense. And for those now wondering, no, like most on this planet, I haven't seen Pluto Nash.
What went wrong? With this movie, it's easier and shorter to list what went right. First, there are a handful of good scenes featuring Wilson's frustration with always getting the 'left-over' spy gadgets. Also, Wilson and Murphy have some funny arguments over how their secret mission will proceed. The development of their unlikely friendship is mildly amusing, as well. These are the comedy portions of the movie. If I Spy had just stuck to comedy, it might have had a chance. Unfortunately, these short but humorous moments are inevitably interrupted by gunfire and explosions. Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy are great when they're talking to each other, but not at all interesting when running away from danger. Go figure! As if that weren't enough to sink this dud, adding to the mayhem are plenty of action sequences so dumb that even Roger Moore would say, "No, quite sorry, but I won't do that."
So, in an attempt to look at the bright side of this, I can say that at least we'll never have to sit through I Spy 2. Okay, I know... never say never!