While I was truly displeased at the lack of real ape antics within Congo, I am delighted to see that Spymate could satiate such desire. Leading monkey Louie is the man of the hour and a real-life primate. It has checked all boxes. Minkey the Monkey has brought with him a sense of realism to the strange subsection of cinema that wishes to work with these animals. Any monkey that is both a secret agent and also a fan of playing Jak & Daxter is going to easily appease the childlike mind of audience members, for Spymate knows its audience, but doesn’t know what to do now that it has found it. What follows is better to be witnessed with your own eyes than to be relayed to you in the written word. God’s own primate prototype acts his heart out and stars in a film that feels like Saturday morning television fodder, but circumvents such theories with an all-star cast.
With Pat Morita, Richard Kind and an early role for Emma Roberts, Spymate is more than puzzling. It is campy, useless fun. A DeLorean-driving former secret agent, Mike Muggina (Chris Potter) sets out to save his daughter from an evil supervillain set on turning her school project into an industrial-sized laser of Earth-shattering proportions. He must first team up with his former partner in crime, who just so happens to be a chimp. They were “the most successful agent duo in the business”, and to that, I cannot imagine how poor the quality of undercover work must be. For a spy, a monkey trundling around in a Hawaiian t-shirt doesn’t turn as many heads as it should.
Through a colossal amount of backstory, we learn the background of Minkey and his break into the secret service. He was the powerful weapon the Western world did not know how to utilise, and, should he fall into the hands of Russian villains, he would conquer the world. Maybe. Who knows? Director Robert Vince certainly doesn’t. A troupe of circus workers with superpowers are never established but steal the scene away from Louie, which is unforgivable. Not just because seeing the monkey has the funniest moments, but also because these other supporting characters are of no interest. One is the strongman, another a mockery of Quicksilver from X-Men, but none of them feel interesting or engaging. They are chewing the scenery far too often, where Kind, Roberts and Potter know the type of film they appear in and choose to ignore such information.
Honestly quite impressive, but certainly not attempting to be so hilarious. Tear-inducingly manic, with nonsense science and jetpack-wearing monkeys saving the day as only apes can. A couple of inevitably questionable moments open, and a few dated jokes do stifle Spymate in more places than one. What does surprise me, though, is how genuinely solid Louie is in a leading role. Animals in cinema have often been rather underwhelming to witness, but there are times in Spymate where somewhat complex scenarios are presented, and Louie manages to interact or even relay the emotion of the scene. My brain may be falling away and rapidly so, but I cannot deny the talent this ape has presented. It is not good, and presents some undeniably dated charm in the same vein as Spy Kids, but switches out its ensemble cast for a monkey and some low-budget chrome set design. A noble trade-off to secure Minkey the monkey.