Spies in Disguise is directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane. The film stars Will Smith, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, and Reba McEntire.
Walter Beckett is a misfit working for a spy organization. He’s got many great ideas and favors nonviolent means to accomplish his goals by. Lance Sterling, a “super-spy” employed by the same organization, has exactly the opposite outlook, flying solo to accomplish his missions by any means necessary, no matter what the cost of destruction he leaves in his wake. When Sterling is falsely accused of a crime, he and Beckett must work together, but an invention gone awry puts Beckett in the body of a pigeon! The two must unite, learning how to utilize Sterling’s pigeon skills, and bringing down the criminal responsible for the frame job.
Animated family comedies are a dime a dozen these days, and I can’t say this is one I was jumping for joy to go see. Spies in Disguise actually works as a fairly entertaining send-up of the spy genre with a handful of entertaining sequences, and the chemistry between Holland and Smith is quite good. However, the rest of the movie has a “been there, done that” quality that does little to set it apart from other animated movies of recent years.
I won’t argue with the star power on display here. Will Smith steals the show voicing a spy who’s as full of himself as he is skilled, with his life turned upside down when he’s trapped in a pigeon’s body! Tom Holland fares just as well as the misunderstood young inventor responsible, and the two have surprisingly good chemistry together. Supporting parts include Ben Mendelsohn as the big bad the two are in pursuit of (who’s criminally underused here!) and even Reba McEntire as the head of the spy organization in the film.
Disappointingly, the film feels far too familiar. The plot is strikingly similar to Gemini Man from a few months ago (also starring Will Smith) featuring someone else believed to be the hero, resulting in said hero forced to flee and attempt to clear his name. Even another movie from a few months ago, Angel Has Fallen, used a similar storyline.
How many movies about someone wrongfully accused on the run trying to clear his name do we need?
In the movie’s defense, it makes the best of its premise, and there are some pretty funny and heartwarming moments throughout; I won’t deny that I laughed a few times. But when it’s all said and done, is it a movie you’re going to watch more than once, especially considering the better studio output from the likes of Disney, Pixar, and even the higher-ranked movies from Dreamworks Animation? Sadly, the answer is no.
Spies in Disguise isn’t a bad movie by any means. It’s a movie for children, and they’re bound to like what they see on screen. The performances from the voice actors aren’t half bad either. It’s just a shame an overused premise rears its ugly head, and the movie doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from other films. If you’re looking for a movie this holiday season to entertain the kids, you could do a lot worse than Spies in Disguise, but you could do better too.
Rating: Two-and-a-half stars out four.
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