Spies in Disguise
Director(s): Troy Quane and Nick Bruno
Writer(s): Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor
Cast: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled and Masi Oka
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Dec 25, 2019 - Wide
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Spies in Disguise is the perfect holiday release. Not everything released in this timeframe needs to be heavy awards season fodder and this movie gives you something that parents can feel comfortable taking youngsters hopped up on candy canes to see.
Will Smith voices the debonair super spy Lance Sterling, the kind of a guy who is a legend within his own agency. The whole agency seems to operate to support him. Meanwhile, Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) is a forgotten, closet-for-an-office scientist. While Bond might have Q and his deadly weapons, Beckett is less of a Q and more of a zero. Sterling ridicules him for his weirdness and his pacifist views and non-lethal weapons. When an evil villain (is there any other kind?) frames Sterling, the only person able and willing to help him is young Beckett. The unlikely duo must track down the bad guy (perfectly voiced by Ben Mendelsohn) to clear Sterling’s name and save the lives of the agency despite the fact that one of Beckett’s inventions has turned Sterling into a pigeon, Making the task more difficult is the fact that 1) Sterling and Beckett are being tracked by their own agency’s internal affairs squad and 2) well, did I mention that Sterling got turned into a pigeon?
The “spy must clear his name” plot is familiar enough that the audience doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting keeping track of who is who and can sit back and enjoy the ride. The holiday season family-friendly aspect is reinforced by the fact that Beckett’s weapons don’t tend to leave a trail of dead bodies all over the place, but rather involve kittens, unicorns, hugs and glitter. Lots and lots of glitter. There’s a nice underlying message here that not all conflicts need to be resolved with force and that being different is an asset not a liability. Chalk up another family-friendly victory.
While kids will have a blast with the pigeon jokes, the adults will enjoy the stylishness of the animation, which evokes the suave, debonair tuxedos and martinis era of the early Bond films. The dynamic between Sterling and Beckett is fun and the rest of the voice cast (led by Rashida Jones, Reba McEntire, Karen Gillan and DJ Khaled) is strong and full of personality. I had a nice escape from the outside world watching Spies in Disguise and wouldn’t be opposed to seeing this team go on another mission.
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