Dave Bautista stars in this action comedy about a spy being outsmarted by a 9 year old.
JJ (Dave Bautista) is a former US Army Ranger who now works as an agent for the CIA. Unfortunately, he’s not particularly good at infiltration, so he blows his first major mission, resulting in him losing part of a plutonium core. Because of this, he’s assigned to keep an eye on Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman), the in-laws of a major illegal arms dealer. JJ is accompanied by his Tech Operator Bobbi (Kristen Schaal). Unfortunately, Sophie soon discovers that JJ and Bobbi are watching over her family and starts to blackmail JJ into being her friend and guardian while she tries to fit in at her new school.
There’s a long history of “action star with cute kid” comedy, ranging from fun movies like Kindergarten Cop and The Pacifier to terrible movies like Cop and a Half and The Tooth Fairy (I love The Rock, but that movie sucks). However, most of those movies are smart enough to be marketed and targeted towards children. This movie, bizarrely, decided to get a PG-13 rating, but only to add a little bit more violence and a few swears, without trying to make the movie more appealing to adults.
It’s pretty sad that the film decided to make itself mostly inaccessible to children, because the chemistry between Bautista and Coleman is honestly pretty solid. Their interactions are really cute, particularly when Bautista is teaching her spycraft. Her desire to use him as a father figure is not really subtle, but it works anyway because of Bautista’s sincerity in being concerned for her. Unfortunately, the film mostly relies on “cute” over “funny,” which is also a bad call if you want it to be for everyone.
It’s not like Bautista can’t be funny; he’s great as the straight-man in Guardians of the Galaxy and was pretty funny in Stuber with Kumail Nanjiani. Kristen Schaal, who is tragically underused in this movie, is typically hilarious. Coleman, although young, also has some decent comedy instincts. Yet, somehow, aside from a few scenes of Bautista’s tough-guy character being paired with Brittany Spears music, which is an old gag to begin with, there’s not a ton to laugh about in this film. There are a lot of heartwarming moments, but the humor isn’t there, at least not for adults. We get some scenes of Coleman humiliating the two grown spies, which should be funny, but it’s been done so much in other movies that it’s really predictable. I will admit that I liked the part where she just Googles how to find the source of the hidden cameras, because I constantly wonder why people don’t just search for answers in films more often.
Even more bizarrely, the action sequences in this film aren’t particularly outstanding. The opening of the film does contain Bautista kicking a decent amount of villainous backside, but after that it is a long time before we see any more of his action chops, and the final fights just aren’t great.
Overall, I just don’t get why the heck this movie wasn’t just made into a kids film. It’s not like there would be a huge amount to change to do so, and I think kids would like it. Adults, though, not so much.
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