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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Peter Segal
scr Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
prd Chris Bender, Peter Segal, Jake Weiner, Robert Simonds, Gigi Pritzker
with Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Kristen Schaal, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Ken Jeong, Greg Bryk, Devere Rogers, Noah Danby, Nicola Correia-Damude, Laura Cilevitz, Ali Hassan, Vieslav Krystyan
release UK 13.Mar.20,
20/US STX 1h39
Dave Bautista once again displays his effortless talent at combining comedy and action, following in the tradition of Schwarzenegger (Kindergarten Cop) and Diesel (The Pacifier) by costaring with a perky child. The smart script generates solid laughs, even if the film feels carefully contrived into a family friendly formula. Thankfully, veteran director Peter Segal knows how to punch a sight gag and weave edgy jokes into a silly story.
After taking a too-heavy hand on a mission in Ukraine, beefy CIA operative JJ (Bautista) is assigned by his boss (Jeong) to team up with tech officer Bobbi (Schaal) and keep an eye on Kate (Fitz-Henley), the sister-in-law of notorious arms dealer Marquez (Bryk). But JJ is no match for Kate's fiercely intelligent 9-year-old daughter Sophie (Coleman), who grew up in Paris and is struggling to fit in at her new Chicago school. Rumbling their operation, Sophie coerces JJ to teach her how to be a spy. And of course, Marquez is coming for them.
There are plenty of amusing elements here, from JJ's absurd instinct for destruction to how he's incapable of grading his language for a 9-year-old. But then Sophie is a hilariously ruthless operator, never giving an inch as she wraps JJ around her little finger while nudging him and Kate together (she dismisses Bobbi as his lesbian friend). This of course weaves a romantic-comedy layer into the storyline, alongside the wacky school-based antics and global action thriller.
Bautista sparks great chemistry with everyone on-screen, from Coleman's remarkably sophisticated kid (she's definitely one to watch) to Schaal's insecure but sassy cohort, who confronts him about closed-off he is. The courtship with Fitz-Henry's vulnerable single mother is more than a little corny, but it's very nicely played in a way that's knowing and cute, including intervention from the comedy gay neighbours (Rogers and Danby) across the hall. The CIA nonsense is a non-starter.
Indeed, the comedy and romance are so enjoyable that it's disappointing when the action kicks in. But the rules of the genre demand a couple of big thriller sequences and a few obstacles in each part of the plot, so we have little choice but ride it out. And what comes is as wild as we expect, ticking all the boxes along the way to the overblown finale and sentimental coda. And since it's so expertly played for laughs and chills, the movie is a funny, engaging guilty pleasure.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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