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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: I-Spy

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson
Director: Betty Thomas
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genres: Action, Comedy

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Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

As yet another parody of the James Bond series, "I-Spy" is pretty pallid stuff, not even up to the 1960's TV series which featured Bill Cosby and Robert Culp as the black-white pair of government agents. The principal plus of the film is a dandy product placement for Budapest, which competes with Prague for the title of Europe's prettiest city just as newly-drafted spy Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) competes to maintain his undefeated streak as middleweight champion of the world. Opening like a 007 thriller in Uzbekistan, a mountain scenario that depicts professional spy Alexander Scott (Owen Wilson) as a bumbling, Inspector Clouseau who cannot begin to compete with America's top agent, Carlos (Gary Cole), "I-Spy" is a buddy-from- hell romp about a mismatched duo who bicker and whine until mutual need ultimately brings them together.

The plot, from a screenplay written by a committee of four, is merely a setup to allow Eddie Murphy to chew up the scenery. As usual he acts as though on speed, chattering like Chris Tucker in Brett Ratner's "Rush Hour" and displaying the same contempt for his partner as did Tucker with Jackie Chan. Kelly Robinson, fresh from his 57th victory in the ring, is teamed up with Alexander Scott on a mission to Budapest to seize the latest in aircraft technology, a stealth aircraft that can literally disappear from view at the touch of a button and is therefore immune to radar. The plane is on sale to the highest bidder, with world-class arms merchant Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell) about to deliver the machine to the country that bids the highest.

The throwaway action scenes involving an exploding car, an uninspired chase, and a series of machine-gun battles are so much stuff to get out of the way to allow the audience to enjoy Murphy's riffs, the most hilarious one showing the forty-one year old Brooklyn born actor playing Cyrano de Bergerac to Wilson's Christian de Neuvillette, instructing the blond "surf boy" in the art of expressing his love to his Roxane in the form of Special Agent Rachel Wright (Famke Janssen).

Oliver Wood films the first-class extensive stunt work in Budapest and Vancouver. If only the comedy were wittier and the action more original! Betty Thomas, a Second City improv club performer turned actress, moving into an Emmy-award winning role on "Hill Street Blues" and director of comedies, has done better with "Private Parts," utilizing Howard Stern's outrageousness to good effect. Here, though, Murphy tries hard to save a generic script, which is encumbered further by the high volume on the theater sound system which makes some punch lines virtually inaudible.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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