While spy films are not a rarity, the latest animated film by Blue Sky Studios attempts a different spin on the genre with their newest film, Spies in Disguise. What begins as a routine mission for world-renowned super-spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith), ends in an altercation with the nefarious Killian (Ben Mendelsohn). Little does Lance know that Killian will use Sterling’s own identity against him and leave him on the run from security forces agents Marcy (Rashida Jones), Eyes (Karen Gillan) and Ears (DJ Khaled), and his entire agency, including his superior, Joy (Reba McEntire), questioning Sterling’s motives and loyalty.
Unsure of where to turn, Lance enlists the help of the agency’s former gadget-building employee, Walter (Tom Holland). The duo make an unlikely pairing – one that often argues about the way Sterling does his job and the way Walter does his – but that comes to a halt when Lance accidentally tries one of Walter’s test formulas, transforming himself into a pigeon. Since Lance wanted to blend in, and be able to seek out Killian without being seen, Walter believes it to be the perfect disguise. While, in theory, this might be true, Lance still has to adapt to a plethora of pigeon qualities he was clearly not privy to as a human. This makes for an adventurous and often funny tale of two misfits just trying to save the world.
Directed by Troy Quane and Nick Bruno, Spies in Disguise is an ambitious children’s movie, but also one that doesn’t always hit the right notes. While there are good lessons to be learned throughout, including how differences don’t make one “weird” and that standing out is more important than hiding one’s self in order to fit in, there were a few times that the film injected jokes or moments of levity that could have waited for more opportune moments. It’s okay to allow a message to sink in, rather than placing a joke into the script almost haphazardly. This paired with the movie being a little too long for a children’s film ultimately hurt the viewing experience I had.
That being said, the film’s saving grace is its voice cast and the funniness of Lance’s flock coming into play after he’s transformed into a bird. Smith and Holland work well together and it was truly fun to hear the voice pairing between their roles. It was easy to sense that both actors truly held their characters in high esteem and really wanted to bring a likeableness to the characters for the audience. To be honest, I wish there was a little less action in the storyline, and a little bit more time being spent on Lance and Walter spending more one-on-one time with each other without the threat of villains. However, I know this wouldn’t have been the exact same film – but I would have been completely fine with that. While there are some elements of a buddy-cop action caper, the moments are fleeting, as there’s only so much that can be done with a human and a pigeon.
While the film isn’t all bad, it certainly could have been better. For example, it would have been nice to see Lance in his human form for a bit longer before we had to deal with his pigeon form. However, I do think that kids will enjoy it for the amount of craziness and funny moments that ensue for Lance and Walter. It’s likely to bring your kids a little more joy during the holiday season and would make for a great family outing during the winter break.
Spies in Disguise hits theaters on December 25.