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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
I Spy Returns (1994)

"I'm not kidding. You could be pushed out of a moving Ferrari, then you'd hate me for it."
- Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 18, 2002

Stars: Bill Cosby, Robert Culp
Other Stars: Salli Richardson, George Newbern, Jonathan Hyde
Director: Jerry London

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, nudity and language
Run Time: 01h:32m:10s
Release Date: October 08, 2002
UPC: 043396102279
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-B-B- D+

DVD Review

The dreaded and reviled television movie reunion genre was in full swing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and getting Bill Cosby and Robert Culp to reprise their roles from the groundbreaking 1960s I Spy series fell right in line with our perceived desire to see familiar, slightly older, faces in familiar surroundings. Getting the old magic and chemistry back is usually the difficulty in projects like this, and in most cases the resulting output becomes nothing more than an embarrassing gawk-worthy freakshow.

This 1994 entry has the benefit of the generally likeable Cosby, appearing here once again as Alexander Scott, who has the ability to make all of his dialogue sound like natural, off-the-cuff codginess. In this return, Cosby's Scott has been out of the spy game for twenty-five years, spending his time as a linguistics professor in some picturesque college town. When he finds out his twenty-something daughter Nicole (Salli Richardson) has been recruited by the same secret SSA agency he once worked for, he pays an angry visit to his old partner Kelly Robinson (Culp), who is now Director of Field Operations. It seems that Nicole has been given a simple "milkrun" assignment to keep an eye on a Russian scientist in Vienna, and in a Screenwriting 101 cliché she is set to be partnered with none other than Ben Robinson (George Newburn), the son of Kelly.

I despise unoriginal reunions, and I especially despise unoriginal reunions that feel the need to introduce the kids of the principals, as if we are immediately supposed to have the same level of warmth and familiarity that we do for the parents. I have nothing against Newburn and Richardson, in fact their acting is on par with that of any other insipid television movie. It's just that the reason anyone might have a remotely passing interest in this film is really because of Cosby and Culp, and no one else.

While 90% of I Spy Returns is a dumb, by-the-numbers Cold War spy story, the moments when Cosby and Culp are together are easily the most enjoyable sequences. These old pros bicker and snipe, and are the source of some fairly funny interplay. Of course, any of the fun dialogue has nothing to do with advancing or helping the tired script, but it was moderately entertaining to see these two old war horses argue and gripe about each other.

Possibly the vilest moment in this dull retread was the obscene updating of Earle Hagen's classic I Spy theme, which here is turned into some kind of jazzed up aberration. I liked that director Jerry London used the show's original opening visuals to start his film, but when I heard the redone score I just had to cringe.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in the original 1.33:1 full-frame ratio, the transfer of I Spy Returns is befitting of a made-for-television flick. Colors are bright, with well-produced fleshtones and respectable, though unremarkable, black levels. The source print is clean, with no noticeable dirt or specks, which is a plus.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: For some reason, Columbia-TriStar has included two virtually identical mixes on this release, in 5.1 and 2.0 surround. Considering the roots of this production as a throwaway television movie, neither tracks are particularly robust; dialogue in both tracks is presented cleanly, but neither make any use of rear channels. Separation across the fronts is adequate, though any noticeable directional imaging is not apparent at all. There isn't anything to bitch and moan about here, it's just a fairly mundane and generic audio mix of a forgettable television movie.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: This one is pretty bareboned in the extras department, with a photo gallery (11 images) and brief filmographies of the principals being the only supplements. The disc is cut into 16 chapters, and includes subtitles in English and Spanish.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Only diehard fans of the original series might be able to work up enough curiosity to sit through this. Cosby and Culp are fun to watch together, but there is too much time spent trying to get the viewer to care for their son and daughter.



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