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"I Spy"

Directed by Betty Thomas ("Private Parts").
Written by Marianne Wibberley, Cormac Wibberley, Jay Scherick and David Ronn. 
Starring Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson and Famke Janssen
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  11/6/02 


Every so often, a film puts it all together.  A BAD film, I mean.

Mismatched lead characters with almost no chemistry.  Big stars, a sorta-big director, and big stunts & special effects.  Atrocious acting, strange plot twists and sketchy editing.  A sorry, no-account soundtrack.  Do I even have to mention the fact that this is a black guy/white guy buddy-cop style film?

“I Spy” is so loosely based on the 1960s TV show starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby that it shouldn’t have even been called “I Spy.”  Owen Wilson stars as Special Agent Scott, an agent for the BNS (Bureau of National Security, which sounds made up), a United States spy unit that apparently features all of two spies.  One is Scott, and the other is the BNS’ lead agent, Carlos (Gary Cole, “Office Space”).  Since Carlos is off on another mission, Scott is teamed with another Special Agent named Rachel (Famke Janssen) to locate and retrieve a top-secret plane called the Switchblade, which is being auctioned to the world’s most dangerous criminals by Gundar (Malcolm McDowell) in Budapest when the movie begins.  Apparently, the ONLY way to find this plane is to recruit the world middleweight champion boxer, Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy), since Gundar is a huge boxing fanatic.  Hijinks ensue.

Wow, this movie blows.  What makes it so bad is that it is trying so hard to be some cross between the “Austin Powers” series of spy comedies and a James Bond ripoff with spy gadgets and gun battles and car chases.  It fails at both, mostly because Murphy is so not funny in this film.  He does have a couple of good lines, mostly at the expense of retarded people; basically, this character is the same as his movie-star persona from “Bowfinger”, without, oh, the humor.  His scenes with Wilson, save for one in a sewer, are all too long and must have made director Betty Thomas (“Doctor Doolittle”, Howard Stern’s “Private Parts”) look at the replay on her monitor and wonder, “Why did I take this gig?”  And, will one of you please tell me why it is that Hollywood is so convinced that Owen Wilson should be our next big white action star?  I will admit that white action stars are in a funk right now, but why Wilson?  With “Behind Enemy Lines”, “Shanghai Noon” (and its sequel, set for release next year), and the upcoming “Starsky and Hutch” remake, why so much OWEN WILSON?!  McDowell looks bored.  Sugar Ray Leonard appears in a cameo...and doesn’t speak any lines!  And Janssen, so good in “Goldeneye” but so useless in everything else she has touched save for “X-Men”, is hot but wasted here.  Why did she not become a breakout star after that film?  So many Bond women go off to do great things, but Janssen’s mediocre career takes a dive here in “I Spy.”

Being a PG-13 action film, there are a hilarious number of one-shot kills (“Ahh!  My shoulder!  I’m dying!”), sex teases but no actual sex scenes, 125 instances of the word “shit”, and a bad, bad ending.  This movie even had a bad advertising campaign, and the posters...ugh, the posters!  They are posted all over San Francisco, and they all suck.  The rap music attached to the film isn’t too bad, but not meant for this film at all.  Even the boxing scenes are pitiful—it looks like Murphy didn’t take enough fake boxing classes to make this look good.  Say what you will about Sly Stallone, but at least it *looks* like he can fight in the “Rocky” series.  And, although he is just a boxer, Murphy’s character is amazingly handy with a submachine gun.

This shit sucks.

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09