This week:
I Spy

Filthy says:
"Who shit on my good weekend?"

I Spy is syphillis on the dick of cinema. It's comedy that plays like a series of open festering pustules that seep onto your shorts and sting at the slightest touch.

Give a monkey Ex-Lax and he'll crap out something better than I Spy. Every time I think those grassfuckers and ass-hobbling dimwits in Hollywood have scraped the bottom of the barrel they go and dig up another layer of sludge, ram it up our asses and say, "That'll be $8 dollars, please." Actually, people in New York pay like sixty or seventy dollars for a movie ticket, but they kind of deserve it for spending most of their time celebrating themselves.

In some ways, I Spy achieves the near impossible. What are the chances that not one of the four screenwriters would have an original idea. If fresh ideas were toilet paper, these guys would be dead from diaper rash. I think one of them, maybe even two, would have something original to say, or at least reach some point hasn't already been trampled under the Ugg Boots of ten-thousand other screenwriters. There is nothing new here, not a plot element, not a character, not a gag. From a creative perspective, writing this kind of shit is no more satisfying than bulk mailing ads for penis enlargement.

I Spy is a sassy-street-smart-black-guy/unsure-bumbling-white-guy buddy action-comedy movie that takes the best of the tired genre and chucks it out the window. Then it goes back, filches the worst and puts a dull sheen on it. At its beginning, the black guy (played with appropriate skin color by Eddie Murphy) and the white guy (an effectively pigment-deficient Owen Wilson) don't like each other. Against their wills they must work together on a top-secret mission to stop a craggy old bad guy with world domination plans (Actually, I'm sure the makers are saving world domination for the sequel; this one is about billions of dollars.). As they work as a team, they learn to respect and rely on one another. Neither can solve the case alone, and in the last five minutes the unique skills of each are needed. There are some details, such as that Murphy is a loud-mouthed boxer and their mission is to go undercover in Budapest before a big fight to retrieve Wonder Woman's invisible plane. But director Betty Thomas and her writers don't care about the plot, so why should we?

I'll let you fill in the details. Just imagine the worst scenes of man-to-man bonding, jive-talking and one-upsmanship from Another 48 Hours, Bulletproof, The Mod Squad, Blue Streak, Rush Hours 1 and 2. Then, suck the life out of them. Now, you know the lingering, bitter taste of I Spy.

It takes a powerful bad script to make someone as naturally funny as Owen Wilson suck wind like this. Murphy has been cashing his checks for a while now, so his shrill and tiresome performance is no surprise. But Wilson co-wrote Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. The studio executives must have shoved so much money up his ass that he had no choice but to appear in this stinker. Then they shoved a bunch more in his mouth to keep him from ad-libbing and accidentally making the movie funny.

The direction is flatter than Kansas in December. It's loud, for sure, and there is plenty of shit blowing up, but it stinks. The action is cheap, more disjointed than a sideshow freak and sometimes incomprehensible. There are also massive continuity errors and shoddy production values that aid a lazy script by writers with no interest in doing research. It's one of those movies where the writers just invent some impossible crazy techno-device to get their characters out of tight spots. When Murphy and Wilson race around Prague in a convertible, they are so obviously in front of a blue-screen that nobody even bothers to blow wind on Wilson's hair. The opening scenes are clearly on a soundstage and I was stunned when the movie then pretended they were outdoors. I thought it would turn out to be some sot of spy training ground, and that would explain the cheap-ass look. A thermo-nuclear device is suspiciously small, and floats. Wouldn't a metal bomb loaded with one of the densest metals on earth be heavier than water? These are nitpicky details, but they add up fast and the sum is "Nobody fucking cared, but we'll take your $8 anyway."

I wonder why the producers had to use the old I Spy TV show to justify this movie. None of the previous black-white buddy comedies did, not even the straight-to-video ones. Maybe they though today's teenagers would be excited: "Fucking rad! That's my favorite mediocre TV show that I've never seen!" Really, for the similarity to its namesake's concept, I Spy might as well be called "Funky Winkerbean." They could have gotten the rights a hell of a lot cheaper.

Some annoying writers tell us that comedy is the hardest genre to write. These people scare me, because they write the over-earnest, belabored crap in the New Yorker's Shouts and Murmurs. You know, the wacky exchange of letters between Thomas Jefferson and the Spice Girls or any of Bruce McCall's painful pantloads. The only scarier people are the ones who think comedy is easy because everything out of their mouths cracks them up. These are the hacks, and they're so enamored with their own zaniness that they never bother to notice everyone else is cringing. They write cat lover joke books, "The Red Green Show", sketches for the Capitol Steps, and now I Spy.

Hollywood is the perfect place for hacks because it's the only place in the world where humorless pricks with deep pockets sit around waiting for someone else to tell them what's funny. The unfunny-but-self-assured writers pitch stories, presumably using oversized props and kooky sound effects, and the executives think "The kids love farts, right? That sounded like an amusing fart."

As long as there are asshole Hollywood executives who dredge up 35-year old TV shows and sell them back to us, and as long as there are unfunny writers willing to fling flabby scenes at a plot skeleton until it looks fleshed out, we'll have I Spy. One Finger.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Kenneth Grahame - Wind in the Willows

Listening to
Ted Hawkins - the Ted Hawkins Story: Suffer No More

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Tony Toscano of Talking Pictures

I Spy is "a blast!"

Comedian is "Funny as hell! It's gold, Jerry, gold!"

Moonlight Mile is "Four stars!"

Santa Clause 2 "Goes down as easy as an eggnog on Christmas Eve."

Formula 51 is "a fast, furious, frantic and funny film!"

White Oleander is "Pure cinematic gold!"


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