Story Details

Cinematic Releases: Spies in Disguise (2019) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1254 days ago on Entertainment - CG animated films are a dime-a-dozen these days – littered in between the big Pixar or DreamWorks releases are generally far less ambitious films from smaller studios, generally short on story and with the barest hint of character development and seemingly extant only for marketing potential (which usually ends up relatively nonexistent anyway). So, it’s difficult to get excited when yet another animated family film hits theatres, particularly around the holidays. 20th Century Fox’s Blue Sky Studios, the creators of the Ice Age and Rio franchises, is banking on its newest release, Spies in Disguise, to work up some hype this holiday season.There have been plans to flesh out Lucas Martell’s 2009 animated short, Pigeon: Impossible for several years, but the resulting feature has very little in common with the original. When ace secret agent Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is accidentally turned into a pigeon by an experimental serum created by gadget-guy Walter Beckett (Tom Holland), an oddball pacifist who hopes to influence the battle against evil with kindness and positivity, he must eschew his lone wolf tendencies and learn to adapt as part of a “flock” in order to save top-secret personal information about his fellow government employees from a nasty terrorist (Ben Mendelsohn) with a grudge and a set of bionic, weaponized body parts – and the ability to scan and display Sterling’s face, making him suspect number one for hot pursuit by security agent Marcy (Rashida Jones).  As Sterling tries to make the best of a completely ridiculous situation, he begins to bond with Walter, and the young scientist’s values and methods begin to rub off on him as they join forces to save the world. Zany and completely cartoonishly absurd, Spies in Disguise is surprisingly entertaining. With lively animation, particularly during action scenes, and a story that moves forward with satisfying quick pacing, it doesn’t stop to be saccharine or boring. The character designs – particularly for its avian stars, including Pigeon-Sterling, whose feathers form a bowtie marking on his chest – are delightfully elastic, enabling the film to delve into some seriously funny slapstick and allow the world of the film to stretch its parameters (in literal, as well as figurative, ways). While the science isn’t exactly accurate, and the relationships between the characters end up changing in predictable ways, as a whole Spies in Disguise delivers a sound, simple good time that doesn’t ask its audience to think too hard or feel too much, but instead consider a ridiculous premise and roll with the laughter it brings. As Lance Sterling, Will Smith is at first buffoonishly cocky with his own hype, at complete odds with Tom Holland’s innocent, well-meaning Walter Beckett in a classic “odd couple” pairing that works better than it has any right to. Laden with upbeat hip-hop tracks and smooth funky-soul fusion, Mark Ronson’s soundtrack upraises the action and keeps things bumping along. This is a rollicking rollercoaster of an animated film, and its bright affirmative messages are conveyed in unconventional, unexpected ways. With affection for the weird, and respect for what’s good inside the human spirit, it leaves the audience feeling optimistic by the time the credits begin rolling. Where many family films trip themselves over cutesy animal sidekicks who sing schmaltzy songs about believing in one’s dreams, Spies in Disguise instead has the misshapen caricature of a pigeon swallowing a laser pen whole and becoming a truly unique weapon. It’s different, and while it may not have as much substance as its recent genre competition, it’s got just enough spunk and well-intentioned heart to make it a fun adventure for all ages.--Dana Culling

Submit a Comment

Log in to comment or register here