"Only in America"

Content: -2 Discretion advised for adults.

What You Need To Know:

I SPY stars Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in the roles that made Bill Cosby and Robert Culp TV stars in the 1960s. They play two bantering American spies trying to foil a plot to nuke an American city with a stolen, invisible spy plane. This time out, Murphy’s Kelly Robinson is a boxer, whose cover allows Wilson’s character, Alexander Scott, to travel to Budapest, where a rich, shady criminal is selling a stolen, invisible American spy plane to the highest bidder. Robinson helps Scott with his crush on one of the members of their team, a beautiful spy played by Famke Janssen. Of course, lots of things go wrong, and Murphy and Wilson exchange many funny barbs as they learn how to work as a team.

I SPY captures the exciting, humorous spirit of the classic TV show. Director Betty Thomas aims for a little more comedy, and succeeds. Regrettably, although the two heroes have a patriotic, professional spirit, their attitude is a bit hedonistic at times. The movie also contains far too many light to medium obscenities and sexual innuendoes. Ultimately, I SPY is not the family-friendly movie it could have been


(Pa, B, P, LLL, VV, S, A, D, M) Pagan worldview with some moral and patriotic elements, but imbued with a hedonist attitude, especially regarding romantic love and premarital sex; 87 light to moderate obscenities, two strong profanities, three mild profanities, one person says, “Thank God,” and many light to moderate verbal sexual references; lots of action violence includes avalanche, gun battles, explosions, car chases, martial arts fighting, kicks to the groin, and boxing scenes; much talk about fornication, including some black slang terms and many references to women’s rear-ends; no nudity but female cleavage and woman wears underwear with man in one scene, where she also begins to unbutton her blouse, but scene is interrupted; alcohol use; smoking; and, greed, double dealing, stealing a special warplane, and temptation ultimately avoided.

More Detail:

For those too young to remember, I SPY was a groundbreaking television show in the 1960s starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. Cosby played the first black spy in a starring role on television and won several awards for his dramatic, sometimes comical, portrayal.

Columbia is revising the concept as a potentially lucrative franchise starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. They’ve hired comedy director Betty Thomas to give it a hip, comic edge. Although the movie version aims for many more laughs than the original series, they’ve succeeded in capturing the funny banter and extravagant derring do that Cosby and Culp brought to their own well-scripted roles. Many people, however, will be turned off by the increased sexual references, especially in the dialogue, that appear in the movie version.

Instead of Culp being a tennis star and Cosby playing his manager, Eddie Murphy plays a boxer, named Kelly Robinson, and Wilson plays a spy, named Alexander Scott, who goes under cover as one of Robinson’s assistants. Malcolm McDowell plays a rich, shady businessman, named Gundars, who steals a special warplane that’s capable of super-stealth camouflage technology. He plans to sell the plane to the highest bidder in Budapest.

Gundars happens to be a boxing fan who’s arranged a match between Europe’s best heavyweight fighter and Robinson. Using Robinson as his cover, Scott and his team of agents, which includes Famke Janssen as a beautiful American spy, will foil Gundars’ plans and retrieve the plane. Of course, lots of things go wrong, people are double-crossed, violence and car chases break out, and Murphy and Wilson exchange lots of funny barbs and banter as they learn how to work together as a team.

Not counting the foul language and crudest sexual innuendoes, I SPY is a hilarious, exciting addition to the spy genre. In fact, it’s one of the best entries in that genre in the last 10 years or more.

Murphy once again shows why he became one of moviedom’s biggest comedy stars. Wilson again demonstrates his ability to be a new, popular star. By the end of the movie, they have successfully re-created the chemistry that Cosby and Culp had so many years before on TV. Fans of the TV series should be mostly pleased, although there will never truly be another match for the buddy team of Cosby and Culp. Director and co-producer Betty Thomas deserves much credit for shepherding this project to such an excellent conclusion.

In addition to the sexual innuendoes in the dialogue, which also includes far too many light to medium obscenities, there is a scene where a woman shows she’s only wearing her undies and where she begins to unbutton her blouse before Wilson’s character. That scene is interrupted, however.

Also, the two spy heroes have a hedonistic, pagan attitude at times, despite their efforts to save the world from criminals and terrorist nations armed with weapons of mass destruction. Murphy’s character, for instance, is preoccupied with sex and wants the glory that comes from helping his country. The good news, however, is that both he and Wilson’s character are serving the United States of America, not just some amorphous international interest.

Ultimately, I SPY is not the family-friendly movie it could have been. In effect, the filmmakers have not only borrowed some of the more positive aspects of the 1960s, they have borrowed some of the worst, pagan aspects of that dark, permissive age. Therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises an extreme caution for mature audiences, including teenagers.

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