While relaxing on the sun-soaked beaches of Monte Carlo, we are finally enjoying the fruits of their long backpacking trip through Europe. My open wound inflicted by the mutants is starting to burn and I have a taste for blood, but let’s not tell Patrick that (Why spoil the vacation?). While I contemplate my newly developed bloodlust, we are approached by a couple of G-Men that look like they mean business. “We have an urgent matter of national security. The President needs you to infiltrate the top secret meeting of high level terrorists in Budapest.” “Why us?” We ask. The G-Men smirk. “Because it’s known that the terrorist organizer is a huge fan of your website and work. He won’t be able to resist letting you into the party.” We both look at each other and know what has to be done, “We are not doing that. That sounds real dangerous.” But after they offer us $10 million dollars we find ourselves hiking to Budapest as newly minted agents of the United States government. That’s right! We’re watching I Spy this week. The Eddie Murphy/Owen Wilson vehicle is the Chain Reaction entry in the cycle jumping from Marmaduke through Owen Wilson. I think everyone forgot this film existed, which is almost a requirement of a BMT film. Let’s go!
I Spy (2002) – BMeTric: 51.3
(Very nice. Since I, Spy came out relatively long ago (relative to the internet archive at least) the most interesting thing to look at was probably whether the rating was still trending towards the mean with extra votes … not. This is a below-average film through and through. Nothing super special (sub-5.0), but decidedly below average.)
Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars – In-name-only reincarnation of the smart 1960s TV show (which starred Robert Culp and Bill Cosby). Here, Wilson is an inept NSA operative who uses socky prizefighter Murphy as his cover to locate a secret weapon in Budapest. An object lesson in bad screenwriting, with an incoherent story and characters that make no sense; only the occasional comic riffs by Murphy and Wilson keep this from a complete disaster.
(TIL the difference between “object lesson” and “abject lesson”, good to know. Great semi-colon game by Leonard (as usual). I’m quite excited to see the “inept” NSA operative. These says that trope has been replaced by the bumbling pro. See: Brooklyn 99 where the very un-serious Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) seems bumbling, but is in fact an excellent detective. So will be nice to harken back to the bumbling fool paradigm.)
(Hmmm … even the trailer looks dull. I kind of like the style though. Murphy really did have a strange sort of arrogant charm back in the day, and despite the early 2000s terrible styles it still kind of looks cool in a weird way. The CGI looks dumb though.)
Directors – Betty Thomas – (Known For: Private Parts; The Brady Bunch Movie; Doctor Dolittle; Future BMT: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel; John Tucker Must Die; 28 Days; BMT: I Spy; Notes: Part of Second City she was a regular on Hill Street Blues back in the day. She’s done a bunch of television movies more recently.)
Writers – Morton S. Fine and David Friedkin (characters) (as Morton Fine) – (Known For: The Pawnbroker; BMT: I Spy; Notes: Original writers for the original show. Both have been dead for nearly 30 years.)
Marianne Wibberley and Cormac Wibberley (story & screenplay) – (Known For: National Treasure; Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; The 6th Day; Future BMT: The Shaggy Dog; G-Force; National Treasure: Book of Secrets; Bad Boys II; BMT: I Spy; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle in 2004; Notes: Married writing team. Cormac is the son of Leonard Wibberley who wrote the Mouse That Roared and its subsequent sequels two of which were made into rather cooky British films in the 60s)
Jay Scherick and David Ronn (screenplay) – (Known For: Guess Who; Future BMT: The Smurfs; The Smurfs 2; Serving Sara; National Security; BMT: Norbit; Zookeeper; I Spy; Baywatch; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay in 2008 for Norbit; and in 2018 for Baywatch; Notes: Were at one point producers and writers on Spin City. Otherwise they are on quite the recent streak of films. Good for them, go get yo money.)
Actors – Eddie Murphy – (Known For: Mulan; Coming to America; Shrek; Shrek 2; Beverly Hills Cop; Trading Places; Tower Heist; Shrek the Third; Shrek Forever After; Life; 48 Hrs.; Dreamgirls; The Nutty Professor; Beverly Hills Cop II; Bowfinger; Doctor Dolittle; Boomerang; Imagine That; Dr. Dolittle 2; Future BMT: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps; Vampire in Brooklyn; The Haunted Mansion; Meet Dave; Holy Man; Beverly Hills Cop III; Showtime; Daddy Day Care; Metro; The Distinguished Gentleman; BMT: Norbit; Pluto Nash; I Spy; Another 48 Hrs.; The Golden Child; A Thousand Words; Harlem Nights; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Screenplay for Harlem Nights in 1990; Winner for Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Supporting Actress for Norbit in 2008; Winner for Worst Actor of the Decade in 2010 for I Spy, Imagine That, Meet Dave, Norbit, Showtime, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash; Nominee for Worst Director for Harlem Nights in 1990; Nominee for Worst Screenplay, and Worst Screen Couple for Norbit in 2008; Nominee for Worst Actor in 2003 for I Spy, Showtime, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash; in 2009 for Meet Dave; in 2010 for Imagine That; and in 2013 for A Thousand Words; and Nominee for Worst Screen Couple in 2003 for I Spy, Showtime, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash; and in 2009 for Meet Dave; Notes: Recent reports put him as the third triplet in the Twins sequel that has been announced. Hopefully Arnold’s recent health issues won’t waylay this.)
Owen Wilson – (Known For: Wonder; Cars 3; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Fantastic Mr. Fox; Cars; The Royal Tenenbaums; Inherent Vice; Wedding Crashers; The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; The Darjeeling Limited; Midnight in Paris; Zoolander; Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb; Meet the Parents; Night at the Museum; Bottle Rocket; Night at the Museum 2; No Escape; Marley & Me; The Cable Guy; Future BMT: Anaconda; Breakfast of Champions; Little Fockers; How Do You Know; You, Me and Dupree; Are You Here; Drillbit Taylor; Masterminds; Hall Pass; Father Figures; Free Birds; Cars 2; Meet the Fockers; The Internship; Behind Enemy Lines; Armageddon; BMT: Zoolander 2; The Haunting; Marmaduke; I Spy; Around the World in 80 Days; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Screen Combo for Zoolander 2 in 2017; and Nominee for Worst Screen Couple in 2003 for I Spy; Notes: There were some question recently about why he isn’t in the new Wes Anderson film, but I never really heard the whole story. Can’t wait to see Father Figures though.)
Famke Janssen – (Known For: X-Men: Days of Future Past; X-Men; The Wolverine; X-Men 2; Taken; GoldenEye; X-Men: The Last Stand; The Faculty; Rounders; Lord of Illusions; Celebrity; Jack of the Red Hearts; The Wackness; Love & Sex; Made; The Gingerbread Man; City of Industry; Down the Shore; Turn the River; Noose; Future BMT: The Ten; Once Upon a Time in Venice; House on Haunted Hill; Hide and Seek; Taken 3; Deep Rising; Taken 2; Don’t Say a Word; This Is Your Death; Circus; The Chameleon; BMT: I Spy; Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters; Notes: She’s a big animal rights activist. She was also very critical about her character of Jean Grey being recast for the new X-Men films, annoyed by them allowing Jackman and Stewart to appear and age gracefully while tending to replace women … kind of a fair criticism to be honest.)
Budget/Gross – $70 million / Domestic: $33,561,137 (Worldwide: $50,732,945)
(Bomb. $70 million … actually makes sense. This was right around when Murphy’s salary would have been sinking films that could have otherwise pulled in a modest return. This film should have had a $50 million budget maybe, considering the action sequences.)
#54 for the Action – Buddy Comedy genre
(Ha. Really right at the peak of the genre. The Tuxedo came out almost at the exact same time as well, along with Shanghai Knights the next year. Jackie Chan bringeth the genre up, and then it promptly crashed. Go figure. The highest grossing film we’ve seen for BMT is Another 48 hrs.)
#18 for the Comedy – Spy genre
(They killed this genre. It also probably also didn’t help that Bond went on a hiatus in 2002. With the rise of Bourne (a less … humorous spy thriller) the comedy possibilities probably went out of the window. Get Smart and then Spy probably brought the genre back … but I think it is dead again. I just don’t really see why a spy based comedy would be interesting at the moment.)
#67 for the Spy genre
(Again completely died with the (terrible) Die Another Day. People like the Mission Impossible films at the moment, they kind of have that ridiculous Fast & the Furious vibe to it with the charismatic Tom Cruise lending it a bit more cred than, say, Transformers in the Action genre. The Tuxedo is, amazingly, the highest grossing BMT film in the series. Although high grossing spy films don’t tend to be terrible.)
#62 for the TV Adaptation (Live Action) genre
(After the initial 90s swell (with BMT classics like The Beverly Hillbillies) this has been reduced to a kind of dull background noise in the releases every year. Baywatch and CHiPs are recent examples, and The Avengers made just about the same amount of money … rough.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 16% (21/133): Insipid and mirthless, I-Spy bares little resemblance to the TV series that inspired it.
(Big worgs Rotten Tomatoes. Mirthless is the name of the game in bad comedies though, and I’ve heard this is basically laugh free. Reviewer Highlight: As inept as big-screen remakes of The Avengers and The Wild Wild West. – Mark Rahner (Seattle Times) … fat chance, that is impossible.)
Poster – I Sklog (B+)
(While I like the artistic spacing, font, and how they’ve used colors to wash out the “human” color palette, I find something about it a little cheap. Like I could have made this poster in my free time.)
Tagline(s) – Attitude meets espionage (B)
(Hmmmm, attitude meets espionage… is this a play on something? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get from mashing these two words together. Seems like a potential classic, sounds-like-a-tagline tagline… that isn’t really a tagline. But it is short and sweet and does what it meant to do.)
Keyword(s) – stealth; Top Ten by BMeTric: 64.8 10,000 BC (2008); 64.4 Stealth (2005); 51.3 I Spy (2002); 47.3 American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987); 46.8 American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990); 46.6 Beverly Hills Ninja (1997); 22.1 Secret in Their Eyes (2015); 21.3 Surviving the Game (1994); 19.2 Tomorrow Never Dies (1997); 18.4 Act of Valor (2012);
(So … the entire American Ninja series? Tomorrow Never Dies, sadly, doesn’t qualify. But it would be nice to see some shitty ninja films. I feel like we still don’t do enough martial arts and western films)
Notes – At the request of director Betty Thomas, actor Darren Shahlavi lost thirty pounds so as to be the same size as Eddie Murphy during the boxing scenes. (what)
Actor-comedian Will Ferrell was the voice of American President George W. Bush when speaking to Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) over the telephone. (That makes sense, given the SNL connection)
The original / earlier draft(s) of the movie’s screenplay had the character of Kelly Robinson, who was later cast with Eddie Murphy, as a basketball player, but due to Murphy’s film industry stature, it was decided to change the character’s sport to boxing, and the character to a boxer. However, the dialogue interchange about the Harlem Globetrotters remained in the script and the finished film. (Wow, that … seems like an oversight)
Initially, star Owen Wilson admitted he was a little nervous about performing opposite comedy legend Eddie Murphy, who was one of his comic idols. Wilson said: “This is the first time I’ve had to work with someone who is so incredible at improvisation. At first, it was difficult to keep up with Eddie. But slowly I started playing off his riffs. I don’t know if that’s what people mean by on-screen chemistry. To me it’s a feeling that you are really in a groove with what the other guy is doing.” (This is an anecdote from a late night appearance for sure)
The characters from the I Spy (1965) source TV series are reversed in this movie version. In the original television series, Kelly Robinson (not Alexander Scott) was the white guy and the athlete, while Alexander Scott was the black guy and the non-athlete. However, in both cases though, the Bill Cosby / Eddie Murphy character was a less experienced spy than the Robert Culp / Owen Wilson character.
The palace of Malcolm McDowell’s character Arnold Gundars, is actually the “Hungarian Royal Palace”, which is also sometimes known as “The Buda Castle”, it having being for centuries home to a number of generations of the royalty of Hungary. (I’ve been there)
The canine in the final scene was actually Famke Janssen’s dog who had the name of “Licorice”. (Great dog name)
Like actor Owen Wilson, actress Famke Janssen got to spar with comedy star Eddie Murphy on screen, a process Janssen, like Wilson, also found daunting at the outset. She said: “There’s a scene in which Eddie and I first meet and he just kept tossing lines at me and I kept going with it. It was really scary, but once I got used to it, a lot of fun as well.” (Whoever was filling up this notes section had just seen or read a giant profile on the film)
The acronym “BNS” stood for The Bureau of National Security. (coooool, I do love facts though)
[NOTE: There are a bunch of notes here which is basically a long profile on the production … just go read the IMDb notes or, better yet, find the source article if you want to learn about it]
In the source I Spy (1965) television series, Bill Cosby portrayed a tennis pro and, for a time, the filmmakers considered making the character of Kelly Robinson in this movie version an international tennis champion. Basketball was also considered, though producer Jenno Topping considered both sports too visually confining for the purposes of a big screen story on an international scale. It was star Eddie Murphy who suggested that his character of Kelly Robinson be a championship boxer, a sport to which he was well suited. Murphy said at the time: “I’ve done some boxing and my father was a boxer, so I already had a background in the sport.” Murphy trained in boxing for several months prior to this picture’s production. Director Betty Thomas said: “Having an actor with a natural ability for a sport was a real asset. It opened up the film in a much more exciting way than tennis or basketball. Having Eddie getting the blows and making the hits had a lot more impact than creating shots in which I would have to rely on stunt doubles.” Stunt Co-ordinator Brent Woolsey added: “Eddie was so coordinated that it made the boxing sequences much easier to execute.” (I left this in though. Pretty interesting that Murphy was boxing at the time).
Principal photography began on 12th September 2001, in Budapest, Hungary. Taking a cue from the original I Spy (1965) television series, producer Andrew G. Vajna decided that this movie version should be set in an “exotic location to create a sense of real excitement in the audience”. Vajna added: “We haven’t seen Eastern Europe used much in action films, especially Hungary. Budapest has been used in movies before, but never as Budapest. It has generally been used as a substitute for Paris or some other European capital. So for the audience it was an entirely new experience. And it just so happens that Hungary is my home.” (Awesome, I do love this fact as well. I’m learning so much about this film … why can’t all of the notes be like this actually? This is super interesting stuff).
The grounds of the Buda Castle were so extensive that the production’s first and second units were filming on either side of the castle at the same time. Producer Mario Kassar said: “It was an amazing feat. In some ways it was surprising that we didn’t trip over each other. Action is taking place on one side, and on the other [director] Betty [Thomas] is tackling all the great character stuff.” (It is enormous … did I mention I’ve been there? Oh I did? Well I went there and just wanted to say I agree with the above statement).
No stunt or acting doubles were used in the scenes where Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) is seen boxing.
First Assistant Director Richard Graves engineered the prototype model of the Switchblade fighter plane from piecing together bits and parts from his son’s plastic jet model kits.
According to the IFC website, “the movie was originally supposed to take place in Prague [in the Czech Republic]. Instead, the movie shot on location in Budapest, Hungary, because the film’s producer, Andrew G. Vajna, lived there” and “was eager to use her hometown as the setting because she had never seen it depicted in a Hollywood movie before.” (Prague would have worked as well. It is pretty rare in films it turns out, no big bad films are explicitly set there as far as we can tell).
It was Eddie Murphy’s idea to sing Marvin Gaye’s famous song “Sexual Healing” for the romantic scene where Special Agent Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) romances Special Agent Rachel Wright (Famke Janssen). In this sequence, Murphy vocally coaches Wilson the words like in the classic story “Cyrano de Bergerac”.
The four short DVD behind the scenes documentaries about the making of this motion picture are entitled: I Spy: The Slugafest (2003); I Spy: Cloak & Camouflage (2003); I Spy: Gadgets & Gizmos (2003); and I Spy: Schematics & Blueprints (2003). (Which is where I assume all of these notes came from)
The name of the title that boxer Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) held was “Super Middleweight Champion”. (These guys have so many facts on here)
The name of the stolen military fighter-plane which had a cloaking device was the “Switchblade”.
The name of the sporting tournament league that boxer Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) competed in was the “Global Boxing League”.
Reportedly, the ending was re-shot Monte Carlo after test audiences stated that they wanted to know what happened to Special Agent Rachel Wright (Famke Janssen) after she betrayed both Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) and Special Agent Alex Scott (Owen Wilson). (Perfecto. We get to literally go from Monte Carlo to Budapest).
Awards – Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actor (Eddie Murphy)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Screen Couple (Eddie Murphy, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Remake or Sequel