Special agent Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) is reluctantly paired with middleweight world champion Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) for a dangerous mission to recover the technologically sophisticated reconnaissance prototype spy plane Switchblade. It has fallen into the hands of a disreputable arms dealer Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell), who is planning to sell it to a rogue terrorist with access to nuclear warheads. Gundars is staging a boxing championship in his Budapest headquarters, and Scott needs Robinson for access. Scott, however would prefer to be paired with Rachel (Famke Janssen), a beautiful special agent on whom he has a crush.
Review by Louise Keller:
It’s spoofy and somewhat goofy, but I Spy engages, largely due to the compelling pairing of comic geniuses Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy, whose performances are entertainment in themselves. Odd-ball pairing has always had its appeal – be it Felix and Oscar of The Odd Couple or the shrink and the gangster of Analyze This. The premise of taking two people from different worlds and on different wave lengths, and making them rely on each other to survive is a great jumping off point for comedy.
An action adventure comedy that relies on its buddy theme, I Spy uses the 60s TV series as a base for the characters, but the writers have changed the tennis star character for that of a boxing champ (Murphy comes from a boxing background – his father was a boxer - and had done some boxing himself).
It’s implausible, predictable, formulaic of course, but the one-liners are sharp and some of the interactions between Wilson and Murphy are very funny. One of the funniest scenes is when the confident boxing champ gives the lady-shy spy a course on how to seduce his lady-love. Wilson is wearing the spy gadget special lens in his eye that allows Murphy to see what Wilson sees, so he can give instruction via the earpiece. Let me just say that Murphy’s song ‘Sexual healing baby’ loses in the translation via Wilson’s lips. Wilson’s delivery is dry and droll, while Murphy’s hyperactive improvising style is like a mouth on a fast treadmill.
Set in Budapest, we are treated to some gorgeous shots of this beautiful city including the ornate Gellért hotel, the Buda castle (now the national art gallery) and the spa baths. Plus there’s a spectacular car chase next to the Danube at night involving an 18 wheel car carrier. There’s plenty of action, but it’s all pretty silly and perhaps the filmmakers should have concentrated more on the repartee between the two stars than anything else.
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I SPY (M)
CAST: Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole and Phill Lewis
PRODUCER: Jenno Topping, Betty Thomas, Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna
DIRECTOR: Betty Thomas
SCRIPT: Marianne Wibberley & Cormac Wibberley and Jay Scherick & David Ronn. (Story by Marianne Wibberley & Cormac Wibberley)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Wood
EDITOR: Peter Teschner
MUSIC: Richard Gibbs
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marcia Hinds-Johnson
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 23, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Coumbia TriStar Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: June 11, 2003 (Also on DVD with special features)