Often known as the King of Comedy; Eddie Murphy has created a name for himself that goes beyond recognition in the world of entertainment.
Eddie Murphy’s been in everything, from live stand up shows to comedy films, and even television shows. He’s one of the world’s most beloved comedians, right up there with the greats such as Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle. However, there’s also one thing we know for sure; he was never good at picking the right scripts.
That is exactly the case with his 2002 outing known as “I Spy”, which is one of those films that can’t necessarily be considered the worst film but it also can’t be considered a decent film. Along with Eddie Murphy, the film also stars everyone’s favorite Texan boy; Owen Wilson. While most Buddy comedy films are usually very enjoyable, from the likes of “Bill and Ted”, “Harold and Kumar”, “Rush Hour” and even “The Other Guys”; “I Spy” is nothing but a cheesy, often ridiculous film that baits for petty laughter.
The story revolves around main character Agent Alex Scott, whose next mission is to recover the infamous stolen stealth fighter plane known as the Switchblade. The plane is now in possession of a criminal arms dealer known as Arnold Gundars, who is sponsoring a middle weight boxing championship as a ruse to auction the plane in the background.
Now, Agent Scott is now paired up with one of the boxers at the middle weight boxing championship named Kelly Robinson. Together, Robinson and Scott must stop the auction, arrest the arms dealer Arnold Gundars and recover the fighter jet by any means necessary. However, complications will arise as both of our heroes will run into a plethora of problems along the way.
Starting off with the film’s overall direction, it’s very poor. Director Betty Thomas has always been one of those filmmakers whose films are a combination of three aspects; comedy, a heartwarming story and a fun cast of characters. Whether it is the “Dr. Dolittle”, “The Brady Bunch Movie” or even the Sandra Bullock starrer “28 Days”, all of these films seem to have those three things in common.
However, “I Spy” is a HEAVY diversion from that, because this film features none of those things aside from the comedy and even the comedy here is agonizing to sit through. This is one of those films that shows you it’s going to be a disaster 5 minutes into it.
The story is essentially just… bad. It’s not so much that the story itself is bad, but rather the way it is told. All sorts of comedic timing and proper humor is pushed off for cheap laughs, Eddie Murphy’s entire talent is wasted here due to the entirety of his comedy in the film being played out for such cheap laughter. I have trouble believing that they even cast Eddie Murphy, but then again he doesn’t really pick his scripts by their merits.
The film’s script is terrible, there’s no weight to any of the relationships or the dialogue in the film, and the characters seem to have no chemistry. Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson do try their best but when their characters are written in such a way, there is no point to giving it your best.
Owen Wilson’s character of Agent Alex Scott doesn’t feel like a special agent or even a normal agent for that matter. The guy is literally just waltzing through the film as if it’s all of no importance, the fighter jet being stolen is essentially not even a problem for the main character which is why the audience doesn’t care either. It doesn’t help that Owen’s portrayal of him is an unfunny, rude and extremely lame guy who is always insecure about being the best or the worst spy at the National Security Department.
Then comes Kelly Robinson who is an overly cocky, highly irritable and also unfunny boxer that thinks he’s hot stuff but is really not. Together they form a bond in the film that is completely nonexistent, and they fight to prevent a National Security disaster which they both, as well as the writers and even the production team don’t seem to care much about.
I want to mention that this movie has some of the worst production I’ve ever seen in a film. It had a budget of 70 Million, yet it looks exactly like every late 90s and early 2000s film that ever came out. Somehow, the little bit of CGI that this film has is even worse than that in films that actually did come out in the 90s.
“The Matrix”, “Lord of the Rings”, they all feature drastically better CGI and for a film that should have had decent CGI due to it being so little; “I Spy” has anything but good CGI. The plane in particular looks horrendous and stands out like a sore thumb whenever they show it going into vanishing mode or even when it’s flying.
The only part about this film that I could consider to be even slightly decent is the location. You can’t go wrong whenever you film something in Hungary, and in particular Budapest. You can’t genuinely make the places in the film look bad due to them being such architectural marvels. The film showcases locations such as the Danube River, the Elisabeth, Liberty and Chain bridges, the Hungarian Parliament building and the Royal Castle in Budapest. The beauty of the locations is mesmerizing, and the only good thing about this film. However, sadly the film itself has definitely wasted them with terrible camera work and shot choreography.
Which brings us to the terrible cinematography, done by Oliver Wood who went on to do the camera work for some other terrible films afterwards. The film has no atmosphere, it doesn’t feel like a spy film but rather a buddy cop movie which it isn’t. It’s a buddy spy movie, there is literally no semblance of espionage, or strategizing, there aren’t even engaging fight scenes. It’s all either explosions, bad jokes or lame expository dialogue.
So, while I did wish my verdict for a film that features both Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson was tremendously higher. “I Spy” in particular does not features a single element that could be considered as noteworthy for a spy film, or even just a film in general. The film features some of the worst writing, some of the worst comedy, terrible direction, nonexistent chemistry between the actors and their characters and uninspired camerawork. If it wasn’t for the locations being such beautiful and cultural places, this could very well be a full out 0 score for me.