I Spy (1/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 I was a big fan of the Ď60s comedy I Spy.  Watching reruns, however, it doesnít hold up, except for the acting of Robert Culp. The scripts are thin and Bill Cosby is wooden.  Cosby got all the Emmies, but Culp, one of the most underrated and underused actors of his generation, did all the acting.

 How fitting, then, that the revival of I Spy, starring Eddie Murphy and OwenWilson is based on a poorly written script (by Cormac and Marian Wibberly, David Ronn and Dave Schenk; you know youíre in trouble when there are four names given writing credit).  For some unknown, but probably politically correct, reason African American Murphy plays Kelly Robinson, the jock, which was Culpís role, and Caucasian Wilson plays Alexander Scott, Cosbyís role. Cosby was an intellectual, but nobody picked up that role because it required intelligent dialogue and you wonít find that in this movie. 

 More comparisons:  Culp could, and did, act.  He took weak material and made the most of it.  Murphy and Wilson take weak material and donít do much, until Murphy becomes funny in the last half hour.  The TV I Spyís success was the chemistry between Culp and Cosby who vamped a lot and thatís what gave the show its charm. Murphy and Wilson seem to stick pretty much to the horrible script, and it shows.

 The story is pretextuous, something about a plane that can disappear that the fictional BNS, the government agency for whom Scott works, wants.  Instead of both being government agents, Robinson is a boxer (was originally an NBA player but for some reason this was changed) and is coerced into helping Scott.  There are some people who may, or may not, be double agents.  Thereís a put>

 The script is an excuse for a lot of car chases and explosions and other things upon which American films increasingly rely in lieu of good writing and acting.  This film was directed by Betty Thomas, who started her career as a stunt coordinator, which explains why itís filled with stunts at the expense of content.  The TV I Spy was mostly talk.  This is mostly, uh, er, well, action, I guess.

 Murphy has some funny moments. Alas, they arenít enough.

 The End