in partnership
Chloe Coleman and Dave Bautista star in MY SPY. (Image: STX Entertainment)

Review: 'My Spy' is predictable, but charming

It's a movie trope as old as at least some twenty year olds. The films poster featuring burly muscle of the WWE mean-mugging next to the sassy grin of an innocent young child. It's a right of passage for many wrestlers aspiring to pivot to the acting world. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, though a bonafide movie star now, had to serve his time in flicks like "The Game Plan" and "Tooth Fairy". John Cena recently starred in "Playing with Fire" whose one-line summary on IMDb reads: "A crew of rugged firefighters meet their match when attempting to rescue three rambunctious kids." Adorable!

It is now famed former wrestler Dave Bautista's turn. Though he's been at the acting game since 2006, it wasn't until his role as Drax the Destroyer in "Guardians of the Galaxy" that Bautista made a name for himself outside of the wrestling world. In "My Spy", Bautista squares up against Chloe Coleman - "Big Little Lies" fans may recognize her as on-screen daughter to Zoe Kravitz's character - in a buddy comedy as unlikely as its many predecessors.

Bautista stars as JJ, a CIA operative whose lack of undercover finesse leads to a demotion and undesirable assignment: surveilling Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a nurse who works long hours, and her daughter Sophie (Coleman) to ensure their safety from the Russian mafia. Their deceased husband/father was involved with his brother's illegal arms dealing business, specifically plans for a nuclear bomb that disappeared after his death and that were meant to be sold to the Russian mafia. Suspicious that Sophie and her mom may be, knowingly or not, harboring the plans needed to finalize the deal, JJ and his goofy, tech partner Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) take up in their apartment building to crack the case.

Following their relocation to Chicago from Paris, Sophie is having a hard time fitting in and making friends. She takes an interest in her unusual new neighbor who, she quickly discovers thanks to her own tech smarts, has bugged her house and is watching them. To keep her from blowing his cover, JJ agrees to do various favors for her, like taking her ice skating and coming for show and tell at her school.

Naturally, JJ and Kate hit it off, complicating his assignment and upsetting his desk-smart partner who is out in the field for the first time. When the bad guy uncle finally makes his move, JJ has more to lose than his job. He is fully invested in Kate and Sophie and will stop at nothing to protect them.

Screenwriting brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber deliver a comedy that is predominantly two things: predictable, yet charming. As it goes with many kid-led flicks, Coleman is pure talent whose acting ability far outweighs that of her adult costars. Bautista has the tact and sophistication of a bulldozer on a frozen pond, but that is part of his appeal. He is especially fun to watch in scenes that require a discomfort with emotional intimacy, which is thankfully much of the film.

Director Peter Segal ("Tommy Boy" and more recently, "Second Act" starring Jennifer Lopez) has fun with the various elements before him, namely the juxtaposition of Coleman and Bautista and the absurdity of the story. He uses Bautista's larger-than-life persona to poke some fun. An opening sequence involving guns, cars and nicely choreographed fighting is a particular highlight that fuses action and comedy. The rest of the film never quite lives up to the tone it sets at the beginning, but it is a light, enjoyable watch nonetheless.

You can catch "My Spy" on Amazon Prime Video now.