Australian Council on Children and the Media

My Spy

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Not suitable under 12; parental guidance to 13 (violence and coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for My Spy
  • a review of My Spy completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 13 January 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not suitable due to violence and coarse language.
Children aged 12–13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and coarse language.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: My Spy
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, action violence and coarse language
Length 100 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

My Spy begins in the Ukraine where tough CIA agent JJ (Dave Bautista) is on a mission to capture crime syndicate leader Victor Marquez (Greg Bryk). JJ manages to take out the enemy, however, at the same time he also kills all of his own team and Victor manages to escape.  JJ is recalled to Langley where he is put on surveillance duties watching Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her nine year old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman). Kate has recently moved to the US from France after her husband David, Victor's brother and fellow criminal, was killed. The CIA believes Kate might still be in contact with her brother-in-law although it is known that they hated each other.

Sophie is having difficulty adjusting to her new school and classmates, who tease her for being different. However, Sophie is a smart girl and, when she discovers a spy camera in her apartment, she goes looking for the agents. Sophie outwits JJ and his assistant Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) and blackmails them into using them to her advantage. JJ must accompany Sophie to school for ‘special persons' day’ and Sophie soon becomes more accepted by her peers. She also blackmails JJ into teaching her how to become a spy as this is what she wants to be when she grows up. The two end up becoming best of unlikely friends and JJ also falls for Sophie’s Mum, Kate. However, JJ and Sophie end up in a perilous state when Victor returns and kidnaps Sophie.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

CIA; Spying; Single parenting; Crime syndicates.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a lot of violence in this movie involving several realistic gun battles, car chases and explosions. Examples include:

  • Armed with machine guns, JJ and his team arrive at a location where an international arms deal is happening. A man pulls a gun on JJ who then shoots a gas canister. This explodes and a shoot-out follows. JJ throws hand grenades and men are seen flying through the air (no-one is actually seen dead or injured).
  • Boys shove Sophie aside when entering a school bus.
  • JJ is shown video footage of David being shot in his car.
  • Bobbi throws a knife over her shoulder which stabs JJ in the leg. Bobbi immediately throws up.
  • JJ goes skating with Sophie and falls over badly on the ice. Some boys push Sophie over so JJ trips them up.
  • Kate kicks JJ in the groin.
  • JJ tells Kate and Sophie that when he was in Afghanistan and short of food, he killed some lizards by bashing their heads in with rocks before cooking them.
  • Sophie deliberately knocks JJ's fishbowl over and his pet fish struggles to survive.
  • Victor grabs a man by the throat.
  • JJ saves a small bird and lifts it up onto a bin. A large bird of prey swoops down and captures it.
  • The CIA raids a place where Victor is meeting with another criminal. There's another shoot out and loud explosions. Multiple bodies are said to have been found (not shown).
  • JJ is hit on the head by Victor. He has a knife in his hand and has come to Kate's apartment to find information on a nuclear weapon, which David had in his possession. They are interrupted by another couple of agents, neighbours Carlos and Todd, who also want the information. Bobbi clumsily drops a machine gun which fires through the building. She then throws grenades. Victor escapes taking Sophie with him by force.
  • Kate and JJ madly chase after Victor in her car, knocking over a motor cyclist in the process. Kate crashes into a fence.
  • JJ confronts an oncoming plane with a large knife which he uses to slash the plane's tyres. The plane drives over him and swerves into the fuel tanker which springs a leak. Victor and JJ face each other with guns, then they punch each other. Victor is getting the upper hand when Kate arrives and bashes him over the head.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • JJ is a large intimidating character, covered in tattoos.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Sophie is teased by both the girls and the boys on the school bus. She tells her Mum that she doesn't get invited to parties.
  • JJ suggests to Bobbi that they might have to kill Sophie (not seriously though).
  • JJ teaches Sophie how to plant explosives using playdough.
  • At a school art show, JJ says that a child's painting looks like a dog taking a dump. This makes the girl cry.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Bobbi has to sleep on a blood-stained mattress.
  • At ‘special person's day’, JJ tells the class that he used to work at taking out the trash across the world. The children laugh at him because they think he's unemployed and Sophie looks ashamed. He then goes on to tell them that he was a soldier and the trash was human trash. He tells them that he's now a CIA agent but they aren't allowed to tell anyone this. If they do he says he'll come and find them.
  • While learning how to fool a lie detector, Sophie says that she sells crack and her mother's a prostitute.
  • The final scene where JJ confronts Victor is quite intense. Victor carries a struggling Sophie onto a plane and they take off down an unknown broken runway with a cliff edge. JJ has to stop them at all costs and blocks their path with a fuel tanker. JJ has to climb into the plane while it tips precariously over the edge to rescue Sophie. At the same time fuel is leaking from the tanker and a fire is spreading out towards the fuel.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Doritos
  • Cheerios.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Carlos and Todd are an openly gay couple.
  • Sophie calls Bobbi, JJ's Lesbian friend.
  • JJ questions Bobbi over placing cameras in the bathroom and asks what kind of a pervert would do that.
  • All of the women at school, including the female teacher, admire JJ’s muscular physique.
  • Mention of a prostitute.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Kate and JJ kiss.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Drinking wine with a meal at home and in a restaurant.
  • Mention of crack.
  • Smoking cigarettes.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Christ
  • Screwed
  • Oh my God
  • Kicking Arse
  • Damn
  • Shut up
  • Bobbi sends JJ a text reading “WTF???”
  • Jesus Christ
  • Shit
  • Bitch
  • What the hell
  • Dick
  • What the f?

In a nutshell

My Spy is a comedy/action movie with non-stop action. The violence is real and not tamed down for children, however there is no blood and gore or depictions of dead people. This movie is also quite intense in parts and with frequent coarse language, therefore, it is not suitable for children under 12 but is likely to appeal to teens and adults.

The main messages from this movie are not to judge people by their appearances and that people are not all good or bad but a mixture of both.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • It is ok to be smart and independent, like Sophie.
  • Don’t judge - JJ is soft at heart although he looks like a tough guy.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Sophie allows JJ into her and her mother's life without really knowing him. This is not a good example of how to treat strangers. Fortunately, JJ turns out to be a nice person but this is not always the case.

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