Owen Wilson has earned himself something of a cult following, and with good reason. He’s funny as hell.
Wilson costars with Eddie Murphy in “I Spy,” an action/comedy movie that’s entertaining all the way through. Artsweek hasn’t laughed this much during a movie since last summer’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” Of course, one expects nothing less out of a comic legend like Murphy – yet his recent films (“Dr. Dolittle” 1 & 2) have been disappointing. Lucky for us, the guy who once tore it up on SNL is back, and in top form.
Murphy shines as Kelly Robinson, a cocky, undefeated boxer going for his 58th win who becomes involved in a government mission to stop the “evil-doers” from getting the Switchblade, a plane which becomes invisible at the touch of a button. Watching Eddie Murphy box is nothing short of ridiculous, but that’s exactly the point.
Still, it’s Wilson who ultimately carries the film. He’s done this type of film before (“Shanghai Noon,” opposite Jackie Chan), and he just keeps getting better. It would be easy to be overpowered by Murphy’s quick wit and aggressive delivery, but Wilson uses his own more subtle style to hold his own and even steal the scene as special agent Alex Scott. He has great on-screen chemistry with Murphy, which grows as their characters become closer, bonding in the Budapest sewer system. The movie’s high point comes when Wilson serenades love interest Rachel (Famke Janssen) with “Sexual Healing,” a scene that is painfully awkward (in a good way).
Admittedly, the plot line is a little thin. While there are some surprises along the way, leaving Robinson and Scott as confused as the audience, the basic story – bad guy gets fancy toy, holds big party in exotic locale and invite lots of other bad guys to bid on the toy – has been recycled several times over. The film starts off a little on the slow side, but the second half picks up, chock-full of laughs and action.
Cool spy toys mean cool special effects, and the stunt scenes are well done. There’s a “Mission: Impossible” spoof, good car scenes and, of course, the Switchblade. Everyone likes high-tech stuff, and few things are cooler than a plane that disappears before your eyes. Even the low-tech gear that Scott gets stuck with is used in a humorous way. In other words, the props are used well.
All in all, it’s the acting that carries “I Spy,” and I for one hope that Murphy and Wilson will continue to work together. While they aren’t exactly Abbott and Costello, they have a certain connection that is impossible to manufacture. And just for the record, Wilson can serenade Artsweek anytime he wants.