I Spy (2002)

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Released 10-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Cloak and Camouflage
Featurette-Gadgets and Gizmos
Featurette-Schematics and Blueprints
Featurette-The Slugafest
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Men in Black II; Mr. Deeds; National Security; Spider-Man
Easter Egg-Trash Talkin'
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 92:33
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Betty Thomas

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Eddie Murphy
Owen Wilson
Famke Janssen
Malcolm McDowell
Gary Cole
Phill Lewis
Viv Leacock
Keith Dallas
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Richard Gibbs

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Last year's I Spy is the third incarnation of the two characters that this film concentrates on. The original I Spy was a TV series that ran from 1965 to 1968, starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby as two US agents. Cosby's character, Kelly Robinson, used the cover of being a professional tennis player, while Alex Scott (Robert Culp) was supposed to be his trainer. Kelly was your clichéd, high-living, womanizing sports personality, whereas Alex was the consummate professional spy. These two actors reprised their roles in a 1994 TV movie called I Spy Returns, and then somewhere along the line someone obviously decided it would be a good idea to do an updated version and put it on the big screen. Who says originality is dead?

    Unfortunately I haven't seen either the original TV series or the TV movie to do a comparison, but from what I've read there doesn't seem to be a whole lot in common between the original incarnations and this one. The names of the characters are the same, and one is black, the other white, but after that things get a little different. Alex Scott (now played by Owen Wilson) is a special agent in the BNS (Bureau of National Security). He's Mr. Average in the spy world; he's no James Bond, but then he isn't a Maxwell Smart either. When a prototype super-stealth aircraft is stolen from the US military, the BNS's best agent is considered too recognisable to send on a retrieval mission, and so Alex is given the job. He must get the plane back before it can be sold to a foreign power that might use it against the US.

    Since the thief, Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell), is a boxing enthusiast as well as an arms-dealer, Alex is paired with a brash middleweight boxing champion, Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy), in order to infiltrate one of Gundars' parties in Budapest. While there Kelly also has the job of defending his middleweight title and making it fifty eight fights without defeat.

    From here on we are treated to the standard buddy movie paint-by-numbers storyline. Alex and Kelly hit it off badly from the start, with Kelly's monstrous ego and complete lack of understanding of the spy world being a constant frustration to Alex, and Alex's paternal nagging getting all the wrong reactions from the boxer. Of course they eventually come to like each other, then separate after a heated dispute, but come together again in the end to foil the villains. The script isn't exactly academy award material, but then that's not why you watch films like I Spy.

    Famke Janssen plays Alex's co-worker and love interest, Rachel, but the film mainly concentrates on the two main characters and their relationship. Although Rachel ends up playing a somewhat intricate part in the plot, her character is fairly underused. Maybe Famke just needed some pocket money while she was waiting for her X2 cheque?

    Before I give my final verdict I have to mention that I am a big Owen Wilson fan. I enjoy his dry, laconic humour, and find him a refreshing change from the standard American in-your-face style of comedy. Eddie Murphy I am fairly indifferent to; some of his performances actually bring pain to me, but others I find are genuinely funny (especially some of his earlier movies). This time round I found him to be somewhere in-between these two extremes. He was certainly believable as a boxer though and, as some of the extras on this disc reveal, is no fool when it comes to boxing.

    This movie really bombed during its US theatrical run, not even making back half its US$70m production costs, so I originally went to see it with very low expectations and was therefore pleasantly surprised. On second viewing I found I enjoyed it just as much as the first time (if not more so), but I'm sure this was largely due to the "Owen Wilson factor". If you take this film for what it is (a brainless action/comedy/buddy/spy-spoof movie with a largely forgettable storyline, some chases and some explosions), and you're a fan of either Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson or both, then I really don't think you can go wrong with at least a rental of this DVD. If deep story and rich character development are what you're after though, I'd suggest you look elsewhere.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer on this DVD is a pleasure to watch, as you'd expect from such a recent release. It's almost reference quality.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is the original theatrical aspect ratio of the film.

    Sharpness is excellent, as is shadow detail and contrast. Large portions of this movie take place at night or in dark surroundings, and the blacks are about as good as you can get without losing any shadow detail. I couldn't even see a hint of low-level noise.

    Colours are absolutely spot-on. Despite most of the film taking place in Budapest, which is not the brightest or most colourful city in Europe, there was still a real richness and depth to any colour that was there. The boxing match scenes were the exception to the drab colouring, with bright vibrant colours and lots of reds. No bleeding whatsoever was evident in these scenes.

    I didn't see any annoying MPEG artefacts, although initially I thought I spotted some edge enhancement in some of the scenes on top of the bridge. Later, when I found out that this was all done with green screen, I decided it was most likely due to the visual effects work. I didn't notice any aliasing either, which was impressive for such a sharp transfer. No film artefacts were evident.

    There are a multitude of subtitles on this DVD, of which I checked the English and English captions (basically English for the hearing impaired). Two things are of note; firstly the subtitles do not keep up too well with the sections of fast dialogue. This is understandable with an actor like Eddie Murphy, where you couldn't read fast enough to keep up, but it does mean there are some jokes that get bypassed. Secondly the English captions have a black, opaque background that occasionally covers up decent amounts of the action (when there is a lot of dialogue onscreen).

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change taking place at 52:53. This is right on a scene transition and is not overly noticeable or disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer, like the video, is excellent. It isn't perfect though.

    There are five audio tracks on this DVD. Three of them are Dolby Digital 5.1; English, Hungarian, and Russian. The other two are Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded; Czech, and English Audio Commentary. I listened to the English and English Audio Commentary tracks.

    Dialogue is the one aspect of this transfer that was flawed, in my opinion. One of my pet hates is when dialogue volume is not set properly in relation to other aspects of the audio. I found with this track that when I had the volume set to a good level the dialogue was sometimes too quiet/unclear, and hence I had to raise the volume until the action scenes were too loud. I've noticed that some reviews of the Region 1 version of this disc rave about the clarity of the dialogue, so I'm not sure if we have a slightly different transfer, or if it's just been more compressed since we have two extra 5.1 tracks over the Region 1 version. They're both 448kbps tracks though, so I wouldn't imagine this to be the case.

    Audio sync was excellent.

    The music by Richard Gibbs is suitably dramatic and spy-like. It's your standard James Bond derivative score, and added to the mood of the film appropriately.

    The surrounds had plenty of work to do during the course of the movie. From the opening action/boxing scenes right through until the end, we had bullets, explosions, crowds, city noise, cars, and all manner of sounds emanating from the rear speakers. It was done in an immersive way, and never seemed too obvious or over the top.

    The subwoofer first came into action after only 1:21, with an avalanche and then an ensuing chase involving a tank and a flame thrower. It was thereafter kept busy for most of the movie, adding great low-end sound for car engines (10:00), explosions (44:55, 61:11), music, boxers hitting the deck, and so on. All in all this transfer has a great low frequency channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are 16x9 enhanced. The main menu contains looping music and scenes from the film running in the background. Other menus are static, with looping music.


    All featurettes are presented at aspect ratios of 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 letterboxed (mixed). They are not 16x9 enhanced.

    These are certainly more than your average extended trailers, and contain quite a bit of info. They do however seem a bit rushed, and don't really cover some things in the sort of depth that would be nice. I also don't like the way DVDs these days often have one making-of featurette cut up into multiple shorts, and I think these would have been better as the one featurette. Of course it may be because it's just footage from the EPKs, but they could still join it together for the DVD.

Featurette - Cloak and Camouflage - 4:25

    This short extra covers the costumes and fashions that were used to dress the main characters. It's a mixture of interviews with the costume designer and director, with footage from the film interspersed. If this topic interests you then there's plenty of info packed into the short runtime.

Featurette - Gadgets and Gizmos - 4:34

    This featurette covers the gadgets used in the movie, as well as how the visual effects were done in some of the sequences. Includes interviews with the producers and visual effects supervisor (who must have set a record for the number of times you can say "actually" during an interview), as well as behind the scenes shooting. Like the first featurette, this one actually manages to actually cram quite a lot of info into its four and a half minutes, actually.

Featurette - Schematics and Blueprints - 5:01

    Here we get to find out about choosing the location for the movie, what went on during location shooting, the sets they had to create, the model construction, the inside of Kelly's luxury jet, and a few other aspects of shooting the film. Includes interviews with the director, art director and producers. Dare I say it? This was a jam-packed five minutes.

Featurette - The Slugafest- 4:10

    A rundown of how the boxing scenes were choreographed, and how Eddie Murphy trained for the part. Apparently it was his idea to make his character a boxer (originally the script called for a basketball player), and he was already a competent pugilist. We get interviews with Sugar Ray Leonard (who has a very brief cameo in the film), as well as his trainer - the fight choreographer.

Director's Commentary - Betty Thomas (Director), Peter Teschner (Editor), Jenno Topping (Producer), David Ronn (Screenwriter), and Jay Scherick (Screenwriter).

    Quite a busy commentary with five participants. Betty Thomas does most of the talking, but most people give a fair contribution, and there are very few quiet spots. They discuss many aspects of the making of the film such as location, effects, actors, extras, the fights, script changes, and so on. At one point they mention a deleted scene from the start of the film that is supposed to be on the DVD, but it never made it, which is a shame. Basically if you have any interest in this film, then you'll find the commentary interesting as well.

    On a side-note, if you select the audio commentary from the special features menu, and then choose the "play movie" option, you'll get taken straight into the film with no messages or warnings. However when playing the movie from the main menu you'll always get the message about "all the views expressed on this commentary are for entertainment purposes only, and are not those of the studio...", even when the commentary is turned off!


    There are five trailers, including the theatrical trailer for I Spy. All are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

Easter Egg: Featurette - Trash Talkin'

    This is a 1:29 interview with Eddie Murphy, where he talks about boxers and the way they trash talk. You can get to this Easter egg by highlighting the "featurettes" option in the special features menu, and then moving to the left twice. The headlight on the scooter will highlight and you can select it.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    The discs are almost identical, so unless you want to watch the cropped pan and scan version, or your first or second language is French, I'd stick with the local Region 4 version.


    A movie that obviously wasn't liked by many, taking the box-office results into account, but which I found to be an enjoyable ninety minutes. If you like these types of buddy movies then I'd recommend it, but don't expect anything too original.

    Video is excellent.

    Audio is excellent, but if you're a bit finicky about your dialogue volume and clarity then you'll find this to be its only fault.

    Extras include an informative commentary, a number of short featurettes covering a decent range of topics, and some very well presented trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)


© David L (Only my Mum would have any interest in my bio)
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDOmni 3600, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersAccusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer

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