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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that My Spy is a spy comedy starring Dave Bautista as JJ, a CIA agent who ends up befriending a precocious 9-year-old girl (Chloe Coleman) while surveilling her family. Although it's targeted at tweens, it has more strong language than you might expect, including "s--t," "d--k," "bitch," "ass," and "Jesus Christ." The violence is also a bit too intense for really young kids: Expect scenes of shoot-outs, deaths, stabbings, attacks, threats, explosions, and even a quick glimpse of a decapitated head (though that scene is more comical than horrifying). A child is in danger in climactic scenes. There's a bit of romance and some ogling of JJ; adults drink wine with dinner. While the movie offers a racially diverse cast and themes of courage, communication, and teamwork, characters also deceive each other, and some characters and jokes are based in stereotypes about the LGBTQ community.
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What's the story?
MY SPY opens during a covert deal in which CIA agent JJ (Dave Bautista) is outed as a spy because his "Russian accent sounds like Mickey Rourke's in Iron Man 2." Once the dust settles and JJ has killed nearly everyone in the room, he returns to CIA headquarters. There, his supervisor, Agent Kim (Ken Jeong), confronts JJ about the fact that he let one of the criminal masterminds escape with nuclear weapon codes. Partially as punishment, JJ is teamed with ops partner Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) on a surveillance mission in Chicago to watch over the young widow and daughter of a dead arms dealer. While in Chicago, JJ and Bobbi are discovered by their 9-year-old subject, Sophie (Chloe Coleman), who blackmails JJ into giving her spy lessons (and generally doing what she says). If he doesn't, she'll tell her mom, Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), the truth about what's going on.
Is it any good?
Scene-stealing child star Coleman outperforms Bautista in this familiar but fun tough-guy-meets-adorable-kid adventure comedy that's a direct descendant of Kindergarten Cop. Bautista, who's fabulous as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy/Avengers movies, brings a similar, somewhat awkward persona to My Spy, but he's not quite as suave or charismatic as Dwayne Johnson or Arnold Schwarzenegger, which impacts his ability to completely pull off the role. He's particularly lacking in the light romantic chemistry that's supposed to blossom between JJ and Kate (something The Rock is great at but that Schwarzenegger has similarly struggled with throughout his career).
Since the adults' romance is a secondary concern here, what really stands out is how great Coleman is with Bautista, and Schaal's performance as JJ's eager partner, Bobbi. The two actresses metaphorically carry Bautista on their shoulders. His butt-kicking, eye-squinting, feel-no-pain demeanor, after all, can only garner so many laughs. But thanks to Schaal's comic timing and Coleman's surprisingly magnetic presence, the movie is better than you'd expect. An off-putting misstep is the stereotypical depiction of Kate and Sophie's gay neighbors (one of whom is flamboyant and one of whom never speaks) and a throwaway line about whether Bobbi is a lesbian. The movie also has a bit more violence and language than is typical for tween-targeted family films. Still, while it's definitely formulaic, there's enough in My Spy to enjoy that it should make for a fun movie-of-the-week pick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of tough-guy-meets-kid comedies like My Spy. What's compelling about them? What are some other examples, and how do they compare to this one?
Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie? Why are stereotypes harmful? Why is diverse, accurate representation in the media so important?
- On DVD or streaming: June 26, 2020
- Cast: Dave Bautista, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, Chloe Coleman
- Director: Peter Segal
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: action/violence and language
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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