Like something straight out of 1990, My Spy owes so much to Kindergarten Cop. Like that film, an action star is pitted against the wit of children while trying to accomplish a mission. And like that film, its star (David Bautista) rises to the challenge. For all its formulaic storytelling, My Spy proves that Bautista is ready to move into starring roles with broad appeal.
Bautista plays JJ, a CIA agent who screws up a mission during the film's opening scene. He is downgraded to a surveillance job watching a mother and daughter who are connected to a stock bad guy. He is forced to partner with Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), a zealous hacker who worships his macho approach. However, they both get quickly outwitted by young Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and soon JJ is being blackmailed to take her ice-skating. Sophie and JJ begin at odds with each other but as you might expect the two bond over time.
Sophie's manipulation of JJ yields some funny moments thanks to the chemistry between Bautista and Coleman. The two play off each other well and Bautista gets the opportunity to appeal to a wide audience here. He is charming and has good comic timing and My Spy should cement him as a leading man. Coleman is precocious and sassy and holds her own next to Bautista's macho persona.
Director Peter Segal has a good handle over scenes where the motley family begins to form. When the action plot kicks in and the bad guy comes knocking, Segal doesn't have the chops to make it exciting. The final act of the film suffers from the boringly staged fight scenes and a lack of suspense. It doesn't help that the film never builds up the villain so we never know what he is capable of.
Regardless of its routine plot or the poorly directed action, My Spy charms. This is thanks to Bautista who gets his best starring role here. He gets consistent chuckles thanks to his comic chops that he honed on Guardians of the Galaxy. My Spy may not be original but his energy keeps it watchable throughout.