PLOT: A young and imaginative inventor inadvertantly turns a super spy into a pigeon. The two must work together to turn him back into Will Smith, and of course, save the world.
REVIEW: In the new animated adventure, SPIES IN DISGUISE, Will Smith partners up with Tom Holland to try and save the world from a devious villain. The only problem is, Smith’s super spy has been turned into a bird. Aside from the interesting pairing and bizarre storyline, the latest from Blue Sky Studios is mostly just a mildly enjoyable comedic adventure. However, it’s one that the young folk will likely have a great time with. Perhaps the best thing in the film is how cleverly it utilizes the charms of it’s lead actors, as well as a slew of talented supporting players including Karen Gillan, Rachel Brosnahan, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Masi Oka and Reba McEntire. But is that enough to keep this bird in flight? Let’s find out shall we?
Even when he was just a boy, Walter Beckett (Holland) knew he’d become an inventor. And while he does manage to get a job trying to create weapons for the government, they are usually not the kind of weapons you’d expect. His creations are specifically designed not to hurt or kill, just to protect or distract. Things get complicated for Walter when the agencies top spy, Lance Sterling (Smith) is implicated for a crime – this is the second time this year we’ve seen two Will Smiths’. Desperate to save his reputation, Sterling ends up working alongside Beckett, but mainly because one of those crazy experiments accidentally turns the super spy into a bird. The two must now work together to try and save the world from a dastardly evil bad dude named Killian (Mendelsohn).
While we’ve certainly seen a few animated spy capers designed for young viewers, this is perhaps the first involving one that has been turned into a pigeon. With a screenplay by Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor, co-directors Nick Bruno and Tory Quane offer up a colorful little feature that falls perfectly in line with previous Blue Sky Studios productions. The animation is impressive enough, and there are a couple of borderline crude jokes to make some of the older kids laugh, but ultimately it’s not a terribly memorable experience. The plot is generic – aside from the transformation angle – and it occasionally delivers a laugh. That said, it’s likely that children will have a much better time than their parents.
As far as the two leads, SPIES IN DISGUISE certainly is aware of the strengths that both Smith and Holland have to offer. For the young inventor, Holland adds the charmingly goofy innocent vibe that he brings to Peter Parker. As for Smith, he does Will Smith as well as he possible could here. Both of these actors work rather well together, as the filmmakers incorporate both of their personalities in an occasionally enjoyable way. In fact, while the plot of the film is rather forgettable, it’s these two that help generate the humor. And of course, giving Beckett a sort of tragic past helps bring him a sympathetic vibe. It’s just not enough to really make this feature truly soar.
The directors’ certainly are fans of spy movies, and the occasional twist and turn help keep things at least slightly tolerable. The biggest laughs came from Smith finally turning into a bird, at least with the audience I was with. One of the best moments comes when Smith attempts to get information from a past enemy named Kimura (Oka). Watching a bird take on a naked guy the size of a sumo wrestler is something I never thought I’d see in an animated feature. The occasional humor in this flick is also partially brought on simply because of how ridiculous it gets. There is a whole lot strangeness going on, and even a slight bromance brewing with both Holland and Smith, but none of it ends up being all the interesting or memorable.
SPIES IN DISGUISE has its moments. It helps to have a couple of extremely likable guys like Tom Holland and Will Smith. As well, the oddity of Smith playing a talking pigeon, and Holland being this weird wunderkind with a tragic past, was an intriguing way to present the characters. Unfortunately the finished project is a bit of a mixed bag. The animation is colorful, and if you are a fan of movies like ICE AGE, you may be pleased with the look of the film. The weird gadgets are clever, and the dynamic between the two leads is sometimes infectious. Even still, this is a mostly forgettable, but at times mildly enjoyable flick – albeit one that will perhaps get a ton of milage once it hits streaming and home video.