In what usually proves to be rare in the cinema world, “My Spy” is a family film that exceeds expectations, if only slightly. The studio’s marketing campaign didn’t do the film any favors, including a trailer filled with groan-worthy dad jokes and a series of pratfalls, but this gruff-lunkhead-meets-sassy-kid buddy comedy is better than you’d think.
Hard-nosed CIA operative J.J. (Dave Bautista) has recently been demoted to undercover stakeout duty, assigned to watch a precocious nine-year-old girl Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and her mother (Parisa Fitz-Henley). When the wise beyond her years little girl discovers the hidden surveillance cameras in her apartment, she uses her instincts to find and expose J.J. and his tech-savvy partner Bobbi (Kristen Schaal). Sophie is ready to blow the CIA’s cover, but makes a deal with the two in a mild form of blackmail — J.J. must spend time with her doing fun things like getting ice cream, going ice skating, and teaching her to be a spy.
Much of the film’s success lies in the chemistry of the two leads, an odd pairing that somehow feels organic. Coleman isn’t an annoying child actor, and Bautista is one of the most likeable muscle heads around. The supporting cast, filled in by Schaal, Fitz-Henley, and Ken Jeong, are amusing, too. They deliver simple, straightforward jokes with aplomb, helping to sell even the most ridiculous aspects of the story to households huddled around the t.v. for family movie night.
It’s nice to have pleasant little films like this to pass the time at home, and while “My Spy” isn’t very distinguished nor too original, it also isn’t wholly lazy, mindless junk. The PG-13 rating gives it a bit of edginess in terms of action, and despite stereotypical comedy tropes and a basic story, the movie supplies enough good fun to warrant a mild recommendation.