Retro Review: I Spy

Owen Wilson finds himself in yet another action-buddy comedy. This time he is teamed with Eddie Murphy in a remake of the 1960’s TV series “I-Spy”.

Aspiring secret agent, Alexander Scott (Owen Wilson) wants to be taken seriously. Scott always seems stuck in the shadow of the agency’s top spy, Carlos (Gary Cole). Scott gets his chance when the agency assigns him to recover a top-secret stealth aircraft known as the “Switchblade”. To aid him on his cover, the president assigns Scott to travel with boxing champion Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) who is journeying to Eastern Europe for a fight.

Before Scott knows it showboating Robinson is as much involved in the mission as he is. Will this unlikely duo be able to stop the likes of vicious arms-dealer Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell)? More importantly will Scott ever get the proper respect he is looking for?

“I-Spy” is a light and funny action comedy that expands on both the quick wit of Murphy and the comedic charms of Wilson. Murphy seems to be reliving his days of old as he over-acts his Robinson character with such style. I haven’t seen Eddie this fresh and funny since “Beverly Hills Cop 2”.

His performance also reminded me some of the character he created in the “Golden Child” as well. I am one of the few people who liked that movie. There were signs of the former Eddie Murphy in last year’s “Showtime” but here the old Eddie seems to be back. And thank goodness since I was getting so sick of Eddie’s versions of “The Nutty Professor” and “Doctor Doolittle”.

There are some great comedic moments in “I-Spy” like when Alex Scott (Wilson) is shown what gadgets he will be using for his mission then Scott sees what his rival Carlos (Cole) gets. This is a classic rip-off of the infamous “Q” scenes in the James Bond films.

By far the best part of the movie is the constant squabbling between Wilson and Murphy. There comedic timing is hilarious and Murphy does such a wonderful job of over-acting Robinson’s arrogance. I loved the moments where Eddie Murphy’s Kelly Robinson would refer to himself in the third person. Such as, “This isn’t the way Kelly Robinson is supposed to die!” or “What do you mean Kelly Robinson isn’t going to get his parade?”

As for a story, this film has a very basic one and Malcolm McDowell plays your typical cardboard villain. But these aren’t the reasons I liked “I-Spy” so much. I liked it because it was fresh and funny.

The scenes where they are poking fun at the “spy-genre” are some of the best parodies I have seen aimed at that genre. Sure you have Austin Powers but that was focused on the cult-like quality and style of the 1960s.

“I-Spy” aims more at the updated and recent spy kind of films like James Bond (Brosnan era), Tom Clancy films and others.

Just sit back, relax and forget about the world for a good hour and thirty minutes. That’s all you have to do to enjoy “I-Spy”.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: November 4, 2002

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