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'I Spy'

'I Spy' is short on humor and direction

Friday, November 01, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson are Evil-Knievel-doers, but there's something wrong with their weapons of mass distraction in "I Spy."

'I Spy'

RATING: PG-13 for violence, language and mild sexual content

STARRING: Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Malcolm McDowell

DIRECTOR: Betty Thomas

WEB SITE: www.sonypictures.com/ispy


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It's an adventure comedy along 007 lines, with a bevy of car, cycle and aero stunts, involving the theft of America's most sophisticated new reconnaissance aircraft, the Switchblade. How sophisticated? So sophisticated it becomes totally invisible at the touch of a remote control. But it has fallen into the villainous hands of international arms-dealer Malcolm McDowell, who plans to sell it to the highest bidder at the terrorist equivalent of Sotheby's in Budapest.

Murphy, meanwhile, is the jive-ass world middleweight boxing champion and a close personal friend of the president of the United States. Pretty likely. The Prez recruits him to get the plane back, and Wilson is the special -- and specially inept -- agent he has to work with. You can bet they'll be quarreling a lot.

Nobody's better at delivering wisecracks than Eddie Murphy, who's like Muhammad Ali on speed here. But the wise he's cracking just isn't very funny. McDowell -- an all-time favorite from "If" and "Clockwork Orange" -- is looking wasted, as is his talent. There's a big steambath shootout that makes no sense whatsoever, and how the big Euro boxing match relates is anybody's guess. You need a bloodhound to follow the trail of this plot.

The direction of Betty Thomas ("Dr. Dolittle," "The Brady Bunch Movie") is on the lame, bordering on paralytic, side. And, Lord, do we need a moratorium on bickering partners.

"I Spy" has gadgets galore -- but where's the comic beef?

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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