The pairing is a canny one, with Murphy's manic energy contrasting nicely with Wilson's breezy affability. Wilson is fast proving to be an appealing, relatable leading man, and here his southern drawl and seemingly lackadaisical attitude belie his character's working knowledge of the craft of spying. The character's formulaic ineptness is repeatedly refreshingly turned on its head as Alex toys with Kelly's ego to get him to do what he wants, but the see-sawing ultimately is confusing for the audience.
In addition, much of "I Spy's" humor is grounded i the back-and-forth banter between the two leads, but the dialogue comes and goes so fast that 90 percent of the conversation is lost. There's a Harlem Globetrotter metaphor that surely is very apt and funny, though this writer couldn't tell you what it consisted of.
Of course, there are plenty of clever gadgets, big explosions and fast-paced chase scenes that add to the action, but, in the end, "I Spy" is as pedestrian as they come. Starring Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen and Malcolm McDowell. Directed by Betty Thomas. Written by Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley, Jay Scherick and David Ronn. Produced by Betty Thomas, Jenno Topping, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna. Action comedy. A Columbia release. Rated PG-13 for action violence, some sexual content and language. Running time: 95 min