Surprise! “My Spy” is fun.
Wrecking-ball undercover operative JJ (Dave Bautista) is assigned with techie Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) to clandestinely observe single mom Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her 9-year-old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman) in case Sophie’s terrorist uncle should contact them. Highly intelligent Sophie detects the surveillance and blackmails JJ into, essentially, being her father figure. The emotionally closed JJ finds himself opening to the girl and her mother, as real danger lurks.
If that sounds familiar and predictable, it is. But the movie manages to be a good time anyway, largely because of the charm of its cast.
Bautista follows in the size-15 footsteps of previous action stars taking big-lunk turns in family comedies. Unlike many others, he pulls it off, flashing some solid movie star comic chops. He had shown a way with light material in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and last year’s “Stuber”; here he plays the cuddly titan to a T. He convincingly conveys something often missing from these comedy-in-bulk exercises: gruff heart. We buy his evolving feelings toward the civilians, while never doubting he could break a person with his bare hands.
Young Coleman (“Big Little Lies,” the very good Amazon comedy-thriller “Upload”) seems headed for big-screen stardom. She reads as genuine and precocious without becoming irritating. She and Bautista work well together. The always-welcome Ken Jeong manages to get some laughs in a relatively straight role, and the always-awesome Schaal (“Flight of the Conchords”) unsurprisingly steals her scenes.
Launching Friday on Amazon Prime, “My Spy’s” release date was pushed several times before the pandemic, a strategy that often indicates something amiss with the film. Not so in this case. Director Peter Segal has had notable hits (including the wonderful “50 First Dates”) and misses, but here pretty much just lets us enjoy the chemistry of a good comic ensemble and very watchable leads.
There’s the usual lite, l-i-t-e, family spy-movie violence. The slapstick generally works and the movie milks Bautista’s sheer size and roughness, compared with tiny Coleman’s crafty fearlessness. Much of the story is telegraphed, but it’s not about shocks or surprises. It’s a charming diversion stocked with people who are fun to watch.
RATED: PG-13, for action/violence and language
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 39 minutes
PLAYING: Available June 26 on Amazon Prime