Sunday, January 10, 2010

First Review: 'Spy Next Door'

As reviews go this isn't too bad. I must admit my expectations of this movie are not great in terms of adult entertainment. It's a kids movie. Hopefully it will be a reasonably decent kids movie and not too corny. It can't help but have a 'been there done that' feel to it because the theme is hardly new. As many have pointed out, including myself, that Jackie finally made 'The Pacifier'. Let's hope its good enough that adults who take their families to see it won't walk out going 'OH MY WORD!' or maybe they should but in a good way LOL.

I am really glad they stuck with the Jackie Chan tradition of including a blooper reel. Sometimes that is the best part of Jackie Chan movie - the funny bits not the ouch ones!

Anyway I guess the box office results will tell the final tale.

Lionsgate release of a Relativity Media production. Produced by Robert Simonds. Executive producers, Ryan Kavanaugh, Tucker Tooley, Ira Shuman, Solon So. Co-producer, Kenneth Halsband. Directed by Brian Levant. Screenplay, Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer, Gregory Poirier; story, Bernstein, Greer.

Bob Ho - Jackie Chan
Gillian - Amber Valletta
Farren - Madeline Carroll
Ian - Will Shadley
Nora - Alina Foley
Poldark - Magnus Scheving
Creel - Katherine Boecher
Larry - Lucas Till
Colton James - Billy Ray Cyrus
Glaze - George Lopez

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." 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. That said, little ones enticed by the trailer and devoted Chan fans may join forces to generate a decent opening weekend, followed by a sharp drop-off once this "Spy's" cover is blown.

Chan plays Bob Ho, a mild-mannered pen salesman by day who moonlights as an international spy. He's just the kind of simple, trusting guy his neighbor Gillian (Amber 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: disaffected teenage daughter Farren (Madeline Carroll), nerdy prepubescent Ian (Will Shadley) and adorable 4-year-old Nora (Alina Foley).

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.

At the same time, there's also an international incident involving a sartorially challenged Russian villain, Poldark (Magnus Scheving) and a top-secret formula for bacteria-eating goop. 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.

Thematically, the pic borrows a thing or two from "The Pacifier," the 2005 comedy in which Vin Diesel was the undercover agent left in charge of five kids. "Spy's" most effective sequences involve Bob's attempts to bond with the kids, in particular little Nora, which is understandable given helmer Brian Levant's track record with family comedies ("Beethoven," "Jingle All the Way").

As for Chan, he's far more persuasive as a comic charmer than as a romantic lead; he has much better chemistry with Carroll, Shadley and Foley than he does with Valletta. Now 55, Chan doesn't have quite the loose-limbed elasticity of his glory days, and though he may still perform some of his own stunts, there's a sense in "The Spy Next Door" of a star struggling to find a foothold.

It's a feeling underscored by David Newman's music, which strains toward the kind of cutesy, exaggerated playfulness that ought to have naturally emanated from the screen. As usual with Chan movies, the gag reel is not to be missed.

Camera (Technicolor), Dean Cundey; editor, Lawrence Jordan; music, David Newman; music supervisors, Happy Walters, Season Kent; production designer, Stephen Lineweaver; art director, Bryce Perrin; set designers, Paula Dal Santo, Derrick Ballard, Amahl Lovato; costume designer, Lisa Jensen; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Bill Daily; sound designer (Dolby Digital/DTS), Michael Payne; supervising sound editor, Mike Wilhoit; senior visual effects supervisor, Ed Jones; stunt coordinator, Bob Brown; assistant director, George Parra; casting, Jeanne McCarthy, Nicole Abellera. Reviewed at Lionsgate screening room, Santa Monica, Jan. 5, 2010. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 MIN.



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