Spies in Disguise movie review: Will Smith, Tom Holland's animation flick isn't big on ideas, but is passable fun
Spies in Disguise would have been a big recommendation, but the film’s insistence on not getting out of the genre’s comfort zone makes you think this is a lost opportunity.
castWill Smith, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Rachel Brosnahan, Rashida Jones, Dj Khaled, Ben Mendelsohn
directorNick Bruno, Troy Quane
Harmless entertainment are the two words that come to mind watching Spies in Disguise, the new animation movie with big recognizable names and a ton of zippy action set pieces to keep kids’ butts in their seats. It’s not big on ideas but it’s passable fun if you’re looking for a casual diversion from the mundaneness of real life.
The story traverses all the spy and mentor tropes – we’re introduced to Lance Sterling (Will Smith), a super spy who is accustomed to saving the world. Lance faces the toughest assignment of his life when someone who looks exactly like him commits a crime and his own department chases him around the globe, under the assumption that Lance has turned into a supervillain. Enter Walter, a kid with an affinity for gizmos who idolizes Lance and invariably becomes his sidekick in the effort to track down the real criminal mastermind.
Directors Troy Quane and Nick Bruno transcend all the spy clichés with one hilarious sight gag that sort of becomes a play on spies literally in disguise. The filmmakers milk said gag by placing Smith’s ‘honorable’ character in a variety of ridiculous situations that undermines everything respectable about him; it works, of course, depending on how much you enjoy jokes about poop and related body functions. It’s quite hard to keep a straight face when there’s this level of tomfoolery at play, and all the jokes are engineered to be low hanging fruits to grab in your palm and smash against your own face. The layer of slapstick is persistent and goofy enough to get you through the swift runtime, even if you will probably never revisit this movie again.
Which brings us to the negatives – which apply to most animation movies that release nowadays – the barrage of pop culture references, the usage of TV and music stars for voice acting as opposed to actual voice actors, the frivolousness of the plot, the sequel bait at the end, and the cringe-inducing familiarity of villain’s master plan – which is oddly similar to the one from Holland’s new Spiderman movie. Just a little bit of effort put in polishing the hackneyed elements would have made this movie a big recommendation, but the film’s insistence on not getting out of the genre’s comfort zone makes you think this is a lost opportunity. The 3D, as usual, is distracting, and for some may be headache-inducing – I still await the arrival of the grand 2D animated IMAX film and be swept away by the visuals rather than grumble about wearing 3D glasses on top of my own.
Take it for it is – an inoffensive and stress-free time at the movies that you can consume as a product than a memorable piece of art and you’ll find yourselves amused by its puerile jokes. At the cost of sounding like a broken record, it is getting harder to justify a visit to the theater to watch a movie of middling quality when you can just wait for a month and stream it in the comfort of your home. But don’t let that bother you, even if you did manage to score a ticket for this one, you won’t be too upset with what you get.
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