Film Weekly

Flying spy

January 8 - 14 , 2020

Gulf Weekly Flying spy

There is a strange relationship between source material and re-imaginations. I often picture it as a couple that met on a dating-esque reality show that have to somehow exist independently and in the same glasshouse, all the while being watched by umpteen critics and ‘shippers.’

When I had initially seen the trailers for Spies in Disguise, I did not even realise that it had source material, but it did eerily remind me of a short I had seen in the early years of YouTube about a pigeon that nearly triggers a nuclear apocalypse. When I learned that Spies in Disguise, produced by Fox Animation (now owned by Disney), is loosely based on a 2009 short Pigeon: Impossible, I assumed the new rendition to be another slapstick comedy of errors.

But I was pleasantly surprised. The movie starts off with a moment from whiz kid Walter Beckett’s (Tom Holland) childhood years, where we learn that his solution to all the violence in the world involves glitter and actual inventions to imitate the cartoon like results of animated aggression.

We then cut to 14 years later; Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is the suave counterpart to Walter’s stereotypical social awkward genius. The guys want to be him; the girls want to be with him – the usual James Bond profile. And we also meet our villain – the comically named Killian Robohand (Ben Mendelsohn), who gets his hands (the pun is always tragically intended in this movie) on a super attack drone.

Lance is framed for this, and Internal affairs agent, Marcy Kappel (Rashida Jones) is on his tail for most of the movie, thinking he is the villain. The snag happens when, after firing Walter for slipping in one of his glitter gizmos, Lance has to return to him for help. Mumbo jumbo science happens and voila! Lance is a pigeon.

The rest of the movie is the new and popular version of a buddy comedy – the bromantic comedy. Lance hates Walter. Walter wants to change Lance. Killian and Marcy are the impediments who won’t let them be friends and a few pigeons come along for the ride.

While the story is predictable, the characters and animation stood out to me. For once, an animated movie actually had layered characters. While this is increasingly common these days with cartoonish motives for the villains, here it was surprisingly well done. A monologue by Killian really drives home the depth of his character as well as the chain reaction of events that would follow if action movies happened in reality.

The animation is truly gorgeous. And it makes sense why, when you look at the portfolios of directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane. This was their directorial debut but both have worked on projects like The Wild, Ice Age and Hotel Transylvania.

Where the movie lacked was the comedy of it all. While it would entertain kids just fine, iconic animation movies have had humour that even appealed to the 28-year-old kids in the room. And this was simply not there, despite the charisma of Will Smith, the wit of Tom Holland and the bizarreness that is Rashida Jones.

So, it’s definitely a good movie to enjoy with kids, but lacking in humour for the rest of us. And for that, it earns its three stars.


Spies in Disguise

CAST: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn 

Director: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure

Rating: PG

Runtime: 102 minutes

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