I Spy

Release Date: November 1, 2002

They are truly in a tight spot.

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Eddie Murphy taking over another famous role that was played by a less-famous white actor? Novel! Owen Wilson teams up in an action buddy comedy with a more famous minority star? Groundbreaking!

Obviously, both of those things have happened a couple of times before. I guess Columbia felt it was time to merge those two ideas into one winning formula. The product is I Spy, a remake of the 1960s television series starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, which Columbia has set up to be their next Charlie's Angels.

The one interesting note here is that Eddie Murphy is playing the Robert Culp role of Kelly Robinson, while Owen Wilson plays the Bill Cosby role of Alexander Scott. The other twist is that instead of both characters being spies, like the TV show, only Owen Wilson's character will be a spy in the movie version. The plot is as follows.

Owen Wilson will recruit Eddie Murphy (an NBA star) to help recover a highly-expensive missing jet, the F-22 Raptor. The question, then, is will I Spy be a standard spy comedy, where an everyman (Murphy) gets thrust into a world of espionage and danger that he never wanted? Along the way, will he narrowly escape death with quick thinking and street smarts, and eventually foil the plans of the international bad guy by becoming the unbeatable spy everyone assumed he was from the beginning? Or could it just be a straight-up spy/action/comedy that banks on the chemistry between Wilson and Murphy? With Betty Thomas directing, I'm betting I Spy will be a tongue-in-cheek thriller with more individual style than your typical action-packed studio film.

Columbia obviously feels that I Spy can have a major opening. Interview with the Vampire, Ransom, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Waterboy, Charlie's Angels, and Monsters, Inc. all opened in early November to more than $30 million. It seems other studios have that same feeling, as the only other wide release currently scheduled for the November 1st weekend, as of the writing of this review, is The Core.

Eddie Murphy is coming back to his film roots by teaming up with Owen Wilson for I Spy. Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy made the black guy/white guy action comedy into its own genre with 48 Hours. Since then, the formula has been repeated and has been almost invariably successful, most famously with the Lethal Weapon series. Unless I Spy is another Metro, I see this film having another huge November opening and becoming another November hit for Columbia. (David Parker/BOP)

November 1, 2002
Though I Spy is now going to be competing for opening weekend dollars with Disney franchise film The Santa Clause 2, Sony has been mounting a very aggressive marketing campaign that dates all the way back to July. At that point, trailers started playing in theaters, and received a fairly tepid reaction. Since then, television commercials have been absolutely running rampant across a wide variety of programs, a move that smacks somewhat of desperation, which makes sense considering the fact that Eddie Murphy has been less than successful as a big box office star this year.

Nonetheless, awareness for the film is going to be extremely high. Though Murphy’s current status is precipitous at best, Owen Wilson is starting to approach “really big star” standing. Unfortunately, the honest evaluation is that movie audiences are actually pretty savvy when it comes to spotting crap, and there’s nothing in commercials or trailers that makes I Spy look appealing or even much fun. The film is destined for a very wide release, and if it somehow manages to prevail as box office champ in its opening weekend, marketing by hammering people repeatedly and constantly over the head may become the method of choice. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Vital statistics for I Spy
Main Cast Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Malcolm McDowell
Supporting Cast Gary Cole, Viv Leacock, Phill Lewis, Darren Shahlavi, Blake Lirette, Sugar Ray Leonard, Keith Dallas
Director Betty Thomas
Screenwriter Ronald Bass, Robert Harling, David Ronn, Jay Scherick, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley
Distributor Sony/Columbia
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for I Spy
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps, The 7/28/0042.52 47.56 3242 13115.00 14112.6 123.29 137.92 2.90
Charlie's Angels 11/3/0040.13 44.89 3037 13214.00 14219.1 125.31 140.18 3.12
Doctor Dolittle 6/26/9829.01 37.29 2777 10447.00 12919.5 144.14 185.32 4.97
Nutty Professor, The 6/28/9625.41 34.66 2115 12014.00 15765.0 128.81 175.73 5.07
Dr. Dolittle 2 6/22/0125.04 26.72 3049 8212.00 8430.0 112.89 120.48 4.50
Shanghai Noon 5/26/0015.61 17.46 2711 5758.00 6196.0 56.90 63.65 2.90
Mod Squad, The 3/26/996.07 7.23 2290 2651.00 3026.7 13.26 15.80 2.18



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