When you went to the theater this past December, did you wish you had gone to see something else other than The Rise Of Skywalker? Yeah, me too. Which is why I watched Spies In Disguise, the latest movie from Ice Age-studio Blue Sky, and oh how I wished I would have seen this instead.
The story pairs up superspy Lance Sterling--played with all of the charisma and confidence that Will Smith could muster--and timid tech geek Walter--played by Hollywood’s favorite new adult-who-looks-and-sounds-like-a-teen-so-lets-cast-him-in-every-teen-role Tom Holland--as they work together to uncover a diabolical scheme that has Agent Lance on the run and framed as a traitor. Right off the bat, this sounds like another Mission:Impossible plot, but this movie adds a twist: Agent Lance gets turned into a pigeon. And yes, there are bird poop jokes. However, this movie pleasantly surprised me. As childish and immature it can be sometimes, Spies In Disguise has quite a bit of violence and talks about the themes of war and hatred. It can be pretty grim, and I’m glad it does. A lot of the violence is played for laughs and is so outlandish that it isn’t taken seriously; it feels mostly like a Bugs Bunny cartoon but with the style of James Bond. But then we see the ramifications of violence and what it does to people, which results in more violence and creates a never-ending cycle of destruction...until someone says “Enough.” It’s a great message, even for adults. 2020 is not off to a great start, and it’s progressively getting worse. I see death on the news. I see friendships ruined on social media. I see so much hatred, bigotry, racism, slander, and cruelty. And I wonder what kind of a world we would live in if we took to heart this movie’s message about kindness and mercy. I’m not sure if this movie would have hit me the same way it did if I had seen it just a few months ago, but today, it made me think about what I could do to help people. If a movie made for kids can make an adult stop and think about what I should be doing with my life, I say this story is worth sharing with your friends and family.
I remember the first time I saw the teaser for this movie. I was honestly impressed with the look of it, and I’m glad that it did not disappoint! The animation is enriched with a distinct art style, over-the-top yet well choreographed action scenes, and great use of dramatic lighting and explosive color. I have a problem with modern CG movies: they all look too similar. Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks can sometimes be
indistinguishable, and I would even say Blue Sky is guilty of this. However, Blue Sky allowed themselves to be creative with its character designs and visual flair, resulting in a movie standing out from the competition. The inventiveness of the gadgets also allow the animators to go nuts with their artistry as they try to outdo the outlandishness of each new invention. I was really glued to the screen when the action scenes kicked in. They had a nice balance of intensifying the danger while also incorporating physical humor. I can only imagine that the animators had free reign to do whatever they wanted in each shot while doing their best to stick to the script, and it seems like they had a ton of fun making those scenes. I think though the movie shines (literally) with its use of lighting and color, which is something that is overlooked in movies, but I have to mention it here because their use of flares, reflections, tone, saturation, and palette is really eye-catching and helps compliment the old-school style of spy films with the vibrancy of modern animated movies. It’s a treat for the eyes!
With an all-star cast that it has, it’s little wonder why the voice acting is so good throughout the movie. As I already pointed out, Will Smith plays Lance Sterling with all of the charm and bravado that you would expect from him, and he does a great job, especially when Lance’s world changes when he transforms into a pigeon. That’s when we get a more sarcastic and humorous Smith, and he provides some great laughs. Tom Holland also does a great job playing, once again in his career, a nerdy, unconfident teen, but I did appreciate that he changed his voice in this movie, so he didn’t sound too much like his other animated role in Onward. Ben Mendelsohn’s voice is always a pleasure to listen to, even if he plays a villain. Like Scar in The Lion King, he gives us a smooth, evil voice that makes listening to exposition and monologues more tolerable. The supporting cast that consists of Rashida Jones, Karen Gillan, Reba McEntire, and many others also do a great job in their minor yet important roles. It’s a great, fun cast, and they do a fantastic job making these animated characters feel unique.
Spies In Disguise is a delightful little film that has a great message and is surprisingly funny for both kids and adults. To be honest, I wasn’t sold on the whole pigeon premise, but after all was said and done, I had a fun time watching this crazy hybrid of spy movies with Saturday morning cartoon shenanigans. If you’re looking for something to make you smile during these bleak times, I suggest this movie, and who knows, maybe you’ll want to save the world after watching it.