Bautista has been making a nice run at Hollywood these past six years or so. After Guardians of the Galaxy he kind of broke out of his “heavy mid-boss in an action movie” rut (which still continued into Spectre and Blade Runner 2049) and started landing several starring or featured roles. While I wouldn’t say Stuber worked out for him, My Spy shows us a much more promising side of Bautista as a leading man.
Don’t go in expecting this to be a spy flick! If you take a look at nearly all of the promo material for My Spy, you probably won’t see much spying at all: and there’s a good reason for that! All of the action is either front or backloaded, with Bautista doing a decent job amid some sloppy CGI and myriad cuts to break up the excitement. Instead, the vast majority of My Spy deals with the relationship between JJ (Bautista as a reckless but likable CIA agent) and Sophie (relative newcomer Chloe Coleman). In other words, it’s kind of like a mid-2000s vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
And there’s no shame in that. The script from Jon and Erich Hoeber has some bite to it, with a lot of the heavy lifting going to Bautista, Coleman and the always-delightful Kristen Schaal. The gist: Bautista and Schaal, down-on-their-luck “losers” within the CIA, have “one more chance” to prove their worth with a relatively worthless assignment: spy on the sister-in-law of a known criminal.
After the formalities, Bautista is thrust into the domestic world of Sophie and her mother (Parisa Fitz-Henley, who isn’t given much chance to shine until the very end), where he learns to live, laugh and love again. It might be sappy, but Bautista and Coleman have real chemistry here, battling each other like two titans of their respective wheelhouses. JJ learns to be a more caring, Sophie learns some spy stuff: there’s something there for everyone in the family, from prospective or current parents to kids with power fantasies. In the end, it’s still a family film that doesn’t make an effort to push the boundaries further than its many predecessors. The narrative could have used some significant tightening up, especially the “romantic comedy” angles that feel out of place and unearned. Bautista, at times, also feels too tight, like he’s barely an on-screen presence: perhaps due to the choice of direction for the character. Whenever that happens though, Coleman is ready to snatch the scene back from the jaws of defeat. Watch My Spy with your family, but be ready to roll your eyes more than a few times.