Over the years, spy films have gradually become louder, more violent and ironically less stealthy. The days of a well-dressed man named James Bond charming his way into a party and quietly taking out the villain’s minions without spilling his drink are gone, having been replaced by explosions and so many confusing plot twists that it’s a miracle if half the audience can follow what’s happening. In Spies in Disguise, directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane decided to both celebrate and poke fun at the evolution of spy films in a family friendly way.
Will Smith turns on his charm and humor as super spy Lance Sterling, who in this universe is the most well-known and borderline superhuman spy who has ever lived. While Sterling is out in the field, a young lab technician named Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) is struggling in making gadgets that actually help the agent. Misunderstanding leads to Sterling being forced to disappear with the help of one of Beckett’s creations, turning him into a pigeon.
Spies in Disguise is very much your typical children’s animated action/comedy. The story is predictable and not very original. You have a selfish and egotistical protagonist who is humbled by a life changing experience that helps them defeat the antagonist. Where the film differs from the usual template is its blending of comedy and some dramatic aspects with the typical action we’ve all become accustomed to seeing. In the film, Beckett was raised by a single mother who is a police officer. His need to make gadgets for her to keep her safe and help her protect the community is what leads to his job helping the agency. It is later revealed that Beckett’s mother was killed at some point leaving Beckett and his pet bird alone in his childhood home. For a children’s film advertised as an action/comedy, this was a very emotional aspect of the film.
The cast is surprisingly eclectic and made for some very fun moments. Rashida Jones, Karen Gillan and DJ Khaled (yeah that’s right, he’s in this too) play a team of agents that are sent to hunt down Sterling and bring him to justice. Reba McEntire plays Sterling’s boss and the leader of the agency. And Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) plays Beckett’s mother Wendy. All of these actors had some great lines in the film and a few of them were surprisingly funny (yes, DJ Khaled was funny too).
If you’re looking for an entertaining family movie this holiday season that adults will also get something out of, Spies in Disguise is definitely worth a watch. It’s a typical spy film, but with both humor and heart ingrained in its plot. And with some great voice acting by Smith and Holland, this film will be a good time for the whole family.