I Spy Columbia/Tristar |

Review By: Fusion3600 | January 28th, 2012

Plot: What’s it about?

An experimental, very powerful top secret spy plane has been stolen, but the authorities are certain about who was involved. The man behind the theft is Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell), an arms dealer who has become the most powerful man in his dangerous, highly illegal trade. The mission to undermine Gundars and recover the plane won’t be easy, but the government is sending in one of its top agents. Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) is assigned to handle the situation and given his skills, he is a wise choice for the mission. He is well trained and shows immense potential, but he doesn’t have a lot of experience in the field and when he has been on assignment, he spends too much time flirting with a certain female agent. Scott is still given this crucial mission, but there are some special circumstances involved. As Gundars is known to be a boxing fanatic, the government thinks that would be the best venue to approach within. In order to get close to Gundars, Scott will be joined by boxing champion Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy). Of course, the two find themselves at odds right from the start, given their vast differences. Scott’s spy tactics work well, but Robinson’s arrogance often counteracts that success. Can the two somehow manage to work together, or will the mission prove to be a failure?

The trend of making feature films from older, established television shows continues, even though most projects have met with limited success. Some have been hits, like Charlie’s Angels and others have found a smaller measure of success, like the Brady Bunch movies, but for the most part, these pictures have sunk. Now we have I Spy, which featured Robert Culp and Bill Cosby on television, but now stars Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy. So where does I Spy fall on the recent scale of television shows turned into movies? As expected, there is minimal fresh content here and while some scenes work well enough, its all material we’ve seen before and in the case of I Spy, we’ve seen it done better. So no, you won’t be dazzled by inventive action or comic content, but if you just want a brisk rental, I Spy might suffice. Its loud, brash, and over the top, with no real heed to storyline or character development, instead focusing on bad one-liners, action set pieces, and rehashed stunts. It doesn’t seem like Murphy, Wilson, or the other cast members seem to interested either, as some great performances might have kicked things up a notch. Some of the comedy works and while unoriginal, the actions scenes are decent enough. So if you’re drawing a blank at the store, you might consider renting I Spy.

After a dry stretch, he returned to star in a string of box office smashes, but these days, Eddie Murphy is back in a dry spell. His last few movies have not only failed at the box office, but they’ve been marked as flops, losing tons of cash. Even his usual block of fans have lamented such recent fiascoes, longing for a return to form, of sorts. His hits are basic comedies, in which he drives the movies with his performance, or performances in some cases, but in his latest tries, he hasn’t been able to win over the masses. You can’t blame the material too much, since his hits weren’t exactly well crafted classics, but there is a noticeable drop-off in terms of quality, as if projects were rushed out to cash in on his resurgence. But the gas is running out on that tank, as audiences no longer settle for just seeing him rattle off dialogue and make funny faces. I Spy isn’t his worst effort, but let’s hope Murphy breaks his streak of busts soon. Other films with Murphy include The Nutty Professor, Trading Places, Boomerang, Showtime, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Golden Child, and Beverly Hills Cop. The cast also includes Owen Wilson (Meet the Parents, Shanghai Noon), Famke Janssen (House on Haunted Hill, Don’t Say a Word), and Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Time After Time).

Video: How does it look?

I Spy is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a full screen edition also included on this dual layered disc. I saw some light compression hiccups, but aside from that, this is another great new release treatment from Columbia. The film’s vivid color scheme is well presented here, with bright and vibrant hues, which never suffer from errors. I also found flesh tones to be natural and consistent, so no worries on that end. On the same note, black levels are crisp and well balance, so contrast is never a problem. All in all, a terrific looking transfer that more than brings the film’s bright visuals to life.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio here is loud and in your face, thanks to an aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 option that pulls no punches. The surrounds pulse throughout, with active presence that booms and really immerses the viewer in the experience. I mean, this is a blockbuster track with power to spare and tons of explosive moments. I do the think the punch has been juiced a little, but while not realistic, the audio is dynamic and effective. The speakers all come alive and deliver the goods, while the subwoofer adds in deep, kickin’ bass. The music sounds terrific also, while dialogue is clean and never presents any problems. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

An audio commentary leads the pack, as director Betty Thomas is joined by several other crew members. When they’re not patting the lead actors on the back, the participants offer some solid insight here. They don’t seem to know that I Spy isn’t a masterpiece, but this track is worth a listen for fans of the flick. This disc also includes four brisk, but overly promotional featurettes, each of which has a specific topic covered.

Disc Features
  • (1.85:1) Aspect Ratio
  • Video Codec: MPEG-2
  • Audio: Dolby Digital
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy
  • 1 Disc Set
I Spy