Former pro wrestler Dave Bautista stars in kids comedy with bite

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It's a rite-of-passage for pro wrestlers turned actors: the comedy that pairs them opposite a precocious child. 

Hulk Hogan did it in "Mr. Nanny," Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson did it in "The Tooth Fairy" and John Cena did it in "Playing With Fire." Now it's Dave Bautista's turn in "My Spy," which thanks to a snappy script and a spunky performance by the child in question, is a cut above your average wrestler-kid pairing. 

Bautista is super-agent JJ, a CIA special op who gets pulled from the field and put on a surveillance mission in Chicago. It's his job (along with his partner Bobbi, played by the reliable Kristen Schaal) to watch Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a widow whose brother-in-law is up to some no-good business involving international arms. 

But the mission is busted up by Sophie (Chloe Coleman), Kate's daughter, who sniffs out JJ and Bobbi's control center one floor above her apartment. Rather than blowing the operation, she blackmails JJ to become her friend, and to teach her the high points of being a spy, like walking away from explosions while looking cool. Their bond is secured through a pinky promise.  

The premise isn't quite air-tight but the execution works, and director Peter Segal ("Tommy Boy," "50 First Dates") finds the right balance of edgy humor, explosive action and physical comedy.

Bautista, a hulking mass of tattoos and muscles, successfully dials in to a self-effacing comic vibe where he never quite fits in a room; he makes even bumping into desks in a child's classroom funny. He and Coleman carry the film even as it gets flabby in its final third, when baddies you don't really care about take the focus off the lead characters. But as these kinds of movies go, "My Spy's" got the goods. Pinky promise. 

'My Spy'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13: for action/violence and language  

Running time: 100 minutes

On Amazon Prime

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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