Monday, January 6, 2020

Spies in Disguise (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 102 minutes
Directors: Nick Bruno and Troy Quane
Writers: Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor
Cast: (voices) Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rachel Brosnahan, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Mark Ronson, Carla Jimenez
Spies in Disguise is now in cinemas everywhere thanks to Walt Disney Studios and 20th Century Fox.

Spies in Disguise is a typical action-thriller starring Will Smith as a special agent, but with a plot so ludicrous that it could only be an animation. However, this film by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane is an absolute comedy riot with the suspension of disbelief that animation provides. While it does not prove to be a family film that will definitely stand the test of time, Spies in Disguise is a solid effort that works as, but not far beyond, a silly, basic comedy with some very amusing animal characters.

A film about an underestimated tech officer in a top secret agency turning the world's most successful spy into a pigeon would have been a hard pitch to make in Hollywood. The one sentence summary itself  both manages to combine the cliche of the unlikely team working together to save the world and also an idea so ridiculous that couldn't possibly be carried forward with any seriousness. Lance Sterling is the spitting image of Will Smith, the man who lends his voice to the character, with his tall, mysterious and handsome demeanour, while his unlikely partner-in-crime, Walter (voiced by Tom Holland) is about a foot shorter by animation standards, awkward and invisible by comparison. This mismatched protagonist combination is ridiculously overdone and basic, and Smith and Holland are consequently playing themselves.

Thankfully, in an accidental effort to disguise Sterling and protect him from being arrested for a crime he didn't commit, Walter turns him into a pigeon. Had Spies in Disguise not have taken this turn and not included these common birds of a feather, it would have been a very dull film and would not have appealed to the family demographic at all. Unfortunately, even with these hilarious birds, there are still many parts in the film which young children will find dull and will lose interest.


There may only be one talking pigeon in this film, but the other pigeons provide many comedic moments. Spies in Disguise brings to light certain parts of a city pigeon's personality making them seem a great deal more amusing than how they are usually perceived. It is no coincidence that Walter's favourite animal/bird just happened to be a pigeon. Pigeons are birds which are often not taken much notice of and dismissed or ignored frequently. More often than not, they are treated as pests. For this reason, they are birds which are perfect as secret agents or as a character on the run as their intelligence is underestimated and they can sneak through places unnoticed. Of course, how many times have you seen a pigeon in a mall or a fast food restaurant? It's amusing, but you never believe they really know what they are doing there. Spies in Disguise makes you question this thought.

Writers Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor have done a wonderful job of looking at all the ways the pigeons could bring the laughs to the film and have succeeded. The humour is wound tightly around an otherwise mediocre screenplay and this makes Spies in Disguise a solid holiday film. The downfall of these pigeons being so entertaining and amusing is that they are make the human characters of the film look even more dull and unforgettable. The animation is well done, but the human characters lack the originality and emotional punch to allow this film to make a real impact.

Spies in Disguise is fine as a school holiday film, but it is unfortunately not one that will keep children enthralled for it's entire run time. The star of the show are the pigeons, which is highly unexpected, even though it is definitely welcomed.

6.5/10

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