Something Familiar This Way Comes

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IMDb

We can all attest to having more incentive to check out original content on streaming services these days, and it’s no secret that Netflix and Amazon have really stepped up their game lately. One of the newest films is My Spy, a cute story with ice cream, ice skating, explosions, and espionage. Has it been done before? Um, yes. It’s like The Game Plan. And Kindergarten Cop. And The Professional. Only not.

CIA agent JJ is completely fearless. He’ll go into Chernobyl to meet a plutonium dealer and kick some tail when the bad guys get suspicious. He leaves his own gun, grabs a bigger gun, and hotwires a Hummer as a getaway vehicle.

Need any more proof that JJ is awesome? He’s so cool he has time to fiddle with the radio stations as he careens out of Chernobyl. After hearing “I Will Survive” and “My Heart Will Go On” in Russian, JJ finds “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears and starts grooving. Uh huh, he’s that kind of agent. His favorite movie is Notting Hill. He also has a beta named Blueberry he says good night to before falling asleep. Yep, JJ is a closet softie.

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They’re not too happy with JJ’s latest exploit at headquarters. JJ’s boss, David (Ken Jeong) thinks JJ is too quick to fight and stinky at reading people, which puts his usefulness in question. This doesn’t look good for the CIA or its agents.

David has a new assignment at the ready, though. A mom, Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and daughter, Sophie (Chloe Coleman) are in danger of being targeted by an uncle who’s an arms dealer and who thinks Kate has the plans for a nuclear bomb. JJ has one more chance to redeem himself or he’s outta there.

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JJ and Blueberry, along with a tech named Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) set up shop in Kate’s Chicago apartment building. Even though the rest of the building is fairly nice, this particular unit screams Skid Row. Bobbi is completely starstruck by JJ. She wants him to teach her all the cool agent tricks, but JJ stresses that she’s only the tech and not his partner.

The first order of business is bugging Kate’s apartment, and then there’s nothing else to do but hunker down and watch all the computer monitors. It works out pretty well until the family’s Jack Russell terrier finds one of the cameras and brings it to Sophie, who immediately realizes something weird is happening. She follows the signal to the rundown apartment and sneaks in with her iPhone camera at the ready.

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JJ and Bobbi are aghast. Sophie realizes she has the upper hand. Unless JJ does exactly what she wants, she’ll upload her footage to the Internet. JJ concedes, and takes Sophie to the skating party she was dying to go to, where JJ promptly falls on his backside. He also trips some kids who were bullying Sophie and gets kicked out of the rink. Some ice cream helps.

Kate’s incensed that her daughter’s been out with a total stranger. The first time she meets JJ she attacks him in, shall we say, a tender spot. Sophie has to explain to Kate, plus Carlos (Devere Rogers) and Todd (Noah Dalton Danby), the gay couple who live down the hall, that she met JJ at the skating rink when some of the boys were bullying her. It’s not quite the whole truth, but everyone buys it.

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Since their cover is blown, Bobbi thinks she and JJ should abort the mission, but wouldn’t ya know it, JJ gets emotionally involved. First it’s joining Sophie for her Parents and Special Friends Day at her school, where he makes all the women swoon and all the men jealous. One heart surgeon dad forlornly eyes his tiny four-leaf clover tat while every mom in the school watches JJ flex his sleeved arm. JJ has plenty of cred with the kids as well. He plays on the seesaw with half a dozen of the girls and is a terror at prison dodgeball.

JJ finds himself checking in on Sophie while her mom is at work and gets roped into making grilled cheese. Then it’s taking Kate out for a romantic dinner, where JJ cuts a pretty dorky rug to a Daphne Willis song. Sophie even says goodnight to JJ and Bobbi via the security camera.

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And let’s not forget that Sophie wants to learn how to be a spy. How to lie during a polygraph test. The art of distraction. Cool one-liners for the smackdown. And she wants to walk away from an explosion in slow motion. JJ coaches her, thinking he’s just playing along, but Sophie is a fast learner, not to mention ambitious. JJ tells her to talk her way into people’s apartments and flinches when she makes friends with everyone in the building.

It’s all very simpatico, but it can’t last. I’m not going to ruin anything, of course. Actually, I take that back, because there might not be much to ruin.

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This movie is based on the well-trod formula of Undercover Tough Guy Turns Father Figure And Romantic Love Interest. It works in a whole lot of goofiness plus all the spy movie cliches and some Matrix-y bullet time. In a seeming nod to Miss Congeniality, there’s a false resolution that sets up an opportunity for our hero to redeem himself. Who knows, there might even be a chance for Bobbi to finally get away from her computer monitors and kick her own share of tail.

It would all be great…except that I had to watch it twice for this review because I completely forgot everything about it since the initial viewing. I can’t even remember if I cringed at the same parts the first time as the second. I’ve been told I didn’t. Except for a little scene involving vomit, that is. Ugh…

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Now, the film does have its strong points, particularly in the acting department. It knows the actors pretty well, especially David Bautista, whose commanding presence was used to dramatic and comical effect. Cliched though the film is, it’s pretty hilarious seeing this guy making an absolute fool of himself on the dance floor and loving it.

Bautista is ably matched by the ladies in his character’s life. The precocious Chloe Coleman as Sophie disarmingly stares JJ down even though she’s less than half his size. This girl doesn’t break for a minute–she gives a great performance here, and it’ll be interesting to see where her career goes. Parisa Fitz-Henley is a fun foil for JJ and a gutsy lady with too little screen time until the end. Last but not least, Kristen Schaal is very cool as Bobbi, because she gives JJ what-for in her own way and she’s a joy to watch.

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My Spy is rather too edgy to be a family movie, but it begs not to be taken too seriously. I chuckled at a few parts and facepalmed at others. Amazon was really trying to have something for everyone, and sometimes they nail it. Other times, they kinda get on the target. It would be a boon if they could try to be at least a little bit original.

The Code Classics Blogathon is coming up on Tuesday. Thanks for reading, and see you soon…


My Spy is free to stream for Amazon Prime customers.

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