Spies in Disguise (2019)
“Spies in Disguise” stars Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Karen Gillan, and DJ Khaled. Released on December 25, 2019, the film is about a super spy who gets turned into a pigeon by his genius inventor.
The film features the directorial debuts of Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, and it is loosely based on the 2009 animated short, “Pigeon: Impossible”, by Lucas Martell. Spies are equivalent to Batman. They save the world from villainous threats, they’re good-looking, and they have the tools to get themselves out of dangerous situations. Where exactly do the spies get the tools from, you ask? Why, their genius inventors, of course. A spy isn’t a spy without a gadget or two from the inventors who made them. It’s like James Bond infiltrating an evil organization empty-handed. It’s just not possible. This latest animated feature from Blue Sky Studios offers a comedic look at the relationship between the spy and the inventor that’ll attempt to attract kids that are too young to handle the awesomeness of “Star Wars” during the holiday season. The animation studio tried a similar strategy with “Ferdinand” two years ago in order to compete with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. While "Ferdinand" wasn’t as highly successful as the “Ice Age” franchise in terms of box office, it was able to earn solid ratings from critics and audiences as well as some award nominations for Best Animated Feature. Never underestimate the power of John Cena as a bull. Like “Jumanji”, Blue Sky Studios is facing off against the power of “Star Wars” once again in hopes of copying the same success as “Ferdinand”. Does it have enough gadgets to complete this mission?
The story centers on Lance Sterling (Smith), a famous super spy from a top secret organization who accomplishes his missions with his good looks and his gadgets created by science genius Walter Beckett (Holland). Sterling’s latest mission has him tracking down a half-man, half-cyborg terrorist named Killian (Mendelsohn) who threatens to destroy the world with a stolen assassin drone. Sounds easy peasy, right? Well, unless you count the fact that Sterling’s been framed for stealing the drone and using it to kill people, then yeah, this mission is definitely easy peasy. With no one else to turn to, Sterling seeks the help of Walter, who’s been working on a secret invention that can make its user “disappear”. Unfortunately, the invention turned Sterling into a small pigeon instead. Whoops. Now he must find a way to save the world from Killian’s wrath in pigeon form while Walter attempts to change him back. It’s practically James Bond for kids without the slow-moving dialogue scenes and the sex scenes. Genius. I wasn’t expecting too much out of this film since it’s made by the same animation studio that created the likes of “Ice Age” and “Rio” because let’s be honest, some of its films are enjoyable and full of heart, but in terms of quality storytelling, it’s no Pixar. “Spies in Disguise” is no different. It’s an energetic and colorful cartoon that combines fast-paced action with some heartwarming messages about teamwork, and to me, that’s all it needed to be. Heck, I would even say that it’s a pretty solid introduction to the spy genre for the little kids because it offered plenty of moments that were harmless and fun for the young ones while also offering the intense sequences for the adults who are familiar with the other spy films like the "007" installments. It’s a good combination that I think people of all ages will enjoy. The film’s story did well in taking advantage of its bizarre concept and having fun with its action spy tropes, even though there were a couple of story elements that didn’t have any real surprises in its gadget backpack. Regardless of that, it’s a pleasing story that delivers on the action, the heart, and the humor, with the latter two coming from the voice cast and the characters. The main highlights of the voice cast has to be Will Smith and Tom Holland as Lance and Walter, respectively. These two have the right amount of chemistry to make their main characters likable and funny. Will Smith is just as good as ever, and Tom Holland proves that he can work well as a voice actor and not just as Spider-Man. What’s also good about these two characters is that they have different perspectives on how to handle a specific situation, which made the development of their friendship between Lance and Walter much more convincing. I would also have to give Ben Mendelsohn some credit for his impressive voice work as Killian. It’s like the studio saw him in his other villain roles from the past and said, “Wow, this guy is good. Let’s hire him to voice the villain in our spy cartoon.” It’s almost like this actor was born to play the bad guy. Sure, he’s been in other films where he’s not the bad guy, but from my personal point of view, I think he works best in the villain role when it comes to his performance. I also thought the animation was on par with the other films from Blue Sky Studios. It’s colorful and a little cartoony. The animation works well for the film’s locations, the character designs, and more importantly, the action sequences because you can’t have a spy movie without the action. Speaking of character designs, I have to point out that the design for Lance Sterling is actually Will Smith in cartoon form. So if you’re wondering why they added Smith in the film, here you go. As for the action sequences, all I can say about them is that they’re fun and intense without being too intense for the young ones.
Overall, “Spies in Disguise” is an entertaining James Bond-inspired cartoon that’s action-packed, heartwarming, and hilarious. While its storytelling didn’t have the same quality as the ones from Disney and Pixar, it has enough gadgets to accomplish its mission, which is to deliver a fun animated spy film for the kids and their parents. With its amusing voice cast, likable characters, solid humor, and vibrant animation, this is not only a respectable back-up plan for families who couldn’t get seats for “Frozen 2” or “Star Wars” during the holiday break, but also another hit for Blue Sky Studios. It’s also a good film that will satisfy fans of the spy genre while they wait for the new James Bond film to come out.
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