ninth symphony films - movie reviews

I SPY (2002)

DIRECTOR  -  betty thomas

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  95 minutes

RELEASED  -  1 november 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $70,000,000
i spy - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from i spy at

buy the dvd from i spy at

a professional athlete has to help a u.s. government agent recover a missing jet.

this film is a remake of an nbc television series from the 1960's.


picture from i spy

picture from i spy

picture from i spy


two out of four possible stars

It shouldn't surprise any viewer that Eddie Murphy is just as kooky on screen in this film as he has been in most of his movies in the past two decades. Most of the time, that flamboyant, loud sense of humor is enough to garner a few laughs from the audience. And pairing Murphy with Own Wilson seems to be a stroke of luck for the producers, because the two work very well together on screen. The only marring of their partnership is probably the direction the script takes. Sometimes "what happens next" is really just an excuse to get Murphy and Wilson in an action sequence and the motivation for each character kind of gets put on the back burner.

But given that this is an action film and a buddy comedy, it is perhaps the job of the writers to create as many humorous situations concerning its stars as is humanly possible. Get the leads up in the air hanging from balloons, on top of transport trucks sitting in luxury cars, and inside cable cars hiding from a waterfall of bullets, and the laughs will surely come, right? Usually these action sequences are funny. But it's surprising that the "down time" is much more entertaining between these two actors than what they do in their stunts.

For example, one scene shows Murphy and Wilson sharing a very small sewer prison underground in Budapest. Although the two were highly annoyed with one another since their first meeting, there is an "opening up" by Murphy's grandiose character that really makes a static scene hilarious. Perhaps the only problem with the flow of scenes in this movie is that the calmer scenes and the action packed scenes don't always seem like they should follow one another. Again, it seems as though the screenwriters were attempting to place the lead actors in simple, funny situations, rather than figure out what their respective characters would actually do in those scenes.

But considering that this film is probably going to be considered just another standard buddy movie, it stands to reason that one shouldn't be too hard on the script. Though a little more attention to character motivation and story might have earned this film an additional star. The two stars this picture received were chosen for each of the lead stars. There is more than one occasion when Murphy and Wilson manage to make their comedy funny enough to elicit an audible laugh. The comedy is harebrained and innocuous, but owing that this film is supposed to provide nothing more than a good time at the movies, most of that promise was kept by the filmmakers.

This film really is a showcase for Murphy and Wilson and the supporting characters don't get much screen time. Famke Janssen, playing a secret agent and Wilson's love interest, once again proves that her presence in the film was constructed much more for eye candy than for meaningful character insights. Her performance is curiously flat and any time she spends on screen is really overshadowed by Eddie Murphy. The one scene where she bares some skin is only made hilarious by Murphy's character, so her presence in the film really doesn't make that much of an impact.

Malcolm McDowell, playing the arms dealer who has stolen a 200 million dollar invisible plane with the intention of selling it to the highest bidder, makes his role suitably evil, as usual. His performance is not standout, but it is sufficient for the film, nonetheless. The only people who should have received more screen time were the four men playing Eddie Murphy's bodyguards. Their roles are stereotypically goofy, but in their few scenes, they provide a good diversion from the main characters.

In its funny moments, I Spy sometimes becomes hilarious, but it takes a fan of the lead actors and a fan of action movies in general to appreciate this film. It won't cross over into other genres because of its strict adherence to the ideals of a brainless action movie, but it will provide an entertaining hundred minutes or so for the people who came to see Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. Often cast as fifty percent of a comedic duo, Wilson isn't able to garner as many laughs as Murphy, but the two still make a good team on the screen. This film suffers from what are becoming increasingly common action movie faults, though is still manages to be funny and entertaining more often than not.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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