I've never really understood the idea of a "guilty pleasure." There's no reason I should feel guilty or have to justify the fact that I like Keanu Reeves' criminally overlooked 47 Ronin or Kevin Costner's The Postman. Just because others can't see the obvious quality in these films isn't my problem – they simply don't have any taste. Why I would have to defend my admiration for last year's slick, smart action flick Anna is beyond me, and for those of you who can't appreciate the subversive nature of the Clint Eastwood comedy Every Which Way but Loose, well, I can't help you.
All that being said, I may finally have to cop to the notion that I do have a guilty pleasure. I have to say that I enjoyed the Dave Bautista comedy My Spy. Truth be told, I really enjoyed it. I laughed repeatedly – actually great big belly laughs – and all the while I knew there was nothing remotely original about this movie, that it is, in fact, completely ridiculous and its combination of comedy and violence is problematic. Yet, I laughed.
Ostensibly a remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Kindergarten Cop, Bautista is JJ, a former soldier who's having a hard time transitioning to his new position as a CIA operative. He lacks the deft touch needed for undercover work, which leads to a mission he's assigned to going horribly sideways during the movie's opening scenes. As a result, he's assigned a simple surveillance detail where he and his overzealous new partner, Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), are supposed to keep tabs on Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and Sophie (Chile Coleman), a mother and daughter who may have ties with a foreign arms dealer. However, their cover is soon compromised by the precocious nine-year old who threatens to expose them by downloading video footage of their operation on the internet. To stop her from doing that, JJ agrees to be her surrogate dad, attending her Bring-a-Parent-to-School Day, going to the student art show and showing up at the ice-skating rink for a get-together. That he starts to date her mother is an unexpected but welcome bonus.
I can sense your eyes rolling right now, dear reader, and I completely understand. The script by brothers Erich and Jon Hoeber is nothing but a pastiche of trite, tired ideas and even the most talented thespians wouldn't be able to breathe any life into what is obviously nothing but a quick cash grab at the box office. And yet, there's something to be said for keeping your expectations low, as in doing so, you're open to being unexpectedly surprised.
Who would have thought that the chemistry between Bautista and Coleman would trump many of the script's shortcomings? The young actress is spunky and has a sense of confidence about her that's a perfect complement to her co-star's deadpan approach. A sequence in which Sophie insists that JJ teach her how to be a spy consists of gags that get increasingly funnier while Bautista's stoic demeanor, coupled with his character's penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, results in big laughs. However, Schaal is the film's secret weapon, her overzealous nature leading to one effective piece of slapstick after another.
I fully expect both film critics' associations I belong to will ask for my resignation once this review is published. And, as a man of conviction, I will have to comply, but I stand by this recommendation. My Spy is no classic, but it made me laugh repeatedly and right now, that's enough.