January 15, 2010
Review - " The Spy Next Door " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Chan plays Bob Ho, a Chinese agent on loan to the CIA, an agent who retires to marry his neighbor (Amber Valletta). Who
knew that the CIA needs to borrow agents from communist China? Maybe Chuck and Sarah were busy that weekend. The
mop-topped Billy Ray Cyrus does a decent job as his sidekick, and George Lopez as the CIA boss.
He's just the kind of simple, trusting guy his neighbor Gillian (Valletta) wants in her life, but her three kids find him
irredeemably boring. When Gillian is summoned out of town to care for a sick parent, Bob sees an opportunity, persuading
her to leave him in charge of her brood: a rebellious disaffected teenage daughter Farren (Madeline Carroll), nerdy lying
tween Ian (Will Shadley) and adorable 4-year-old Nora (Alina Foley).
"I brought down dictators. How tough can three kids be?" States super-spy Ho
A host of mini-crises ensue (a disastrous attempt to cook ends with smoke alarms blaring), all designed to spotlight Bob's
incompetence on the domestic front. Only when Bob pulls out his spy gear, installing closed-circuit cameras and kiddie
LoJacks (parents take note) do things start to turn around. "Spy's" most effective sequences involve Bob's attempts to bond
with the kids, in particular little Nora.
At the same time, there's also an international incident involving a Russian villain, Poldark (Magnus Scheving) and a
top-secret formula for bacteria. Somehow, young Ian has intercepted and downloaded the formula on his iPod, a fact that
immediately and inexplicably becomes known to the Russians, so it's not long before Poldark and his cronies come after Bob
and the kids. Final reel involves a blow-out fight that packs plenty of stunt choreography, physical humor and sight gags
timed to coincide with Halloween.
The movie poster makes it look like Spy Kids meets Kung Fu
and they squandered the opportunity to make the film like that.
Early in the film they brought up that Farren is into gymnastics
and Ian is super smart and reads college chemistry books for
fun. They had every chance to exploit these concepts and
have the kids join in fighting the bad guys but chose to ignore
these easy set-ups. The kids personality quirks become as
pointless as Nora insisting on wearing only pink. They are
brought up as major plot points and then completely forgotten.
Jackie Chan is always fun to watch with his comedic brand
of Kung Fu and there are a few well staged fight sequences.
It's a good thing, too, because there isn't much else to
recommend this by-the-book action comedy, a mostly
inoffensive nothing of a film with one or two mild chuckles
and lots of chop-socky commotion.
The Spy Next Door
Directed by: Brian Levant
Starring: Jackie Chan, Amber Valetta, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez,
Magnus Sheving, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley, Alina Foley
The martial-arts comic used to dazzle us with his athletic hijinks -
clambering over this and that, using ladders, a sailboat mast, anything
at hand - to chase down or beat down bad guys. The stunts were
spectacular and he did his own. He proved that with the always
hilarious outtakes reel at the end of each film - evidence of the
broken bones and twisted ankles that Jackie suffered for his art. It's a
sad day for Jackie Chan fans when the action-comedy star is reduced
to a vehicle as lame as "The Spy Next Door."
The opening features clips from some of Chan's recent films before
speeding briskly through a nicely-staged fight pitting the star against
villain. Ho's athleticism and James Bond-like gadgets play perfectly to
Chan's strengths and fans should enjoy seeing how the star has
adapted old routines for new purposes.
As an undercover CIA agent ill-equipped to babysit his girlfriend's three
kids, Chan struggles gamely to charm, but the pic's cartoonish jokes
and misfired gags are likely to elicit more eye rolls than laughs."The
Spy Next Door" should have been a sure thing, Chan's version of
"Kindergarten Cop" the man of action overwhelmed by child-rearing.
But this is no Kindergarten Cop - this is more like "The Pacifier" with
Jackie Chan instead of Vin Diesel.