I love animations and whenever a new one is released I make a beeline for the cinema. Sadly though, the majority of the releases are utter rubbish with cut and paste storylines and characters, Spies In Disguise though proved to the wheat among the chaff. (Or the dove among the pigeons?)
Will Smith, who needs no introduction, plays the part of special agent, super spy Lance Sterling who finds himself up against a rather dark and sinister baddie Killian (Ben Mendelsohn). The dashing, charismatic and incredibly arrogant Sterling has the tables turned on him, is accused of a grievous double-deed and sets out to clear his name.
The whole film is a poke at James Bond and all the other cliche spy movies but rather than taking itself seriously like The Incredibles it puts itself squarely in the realm of satire.
Lance is the typical suave, all action, suited and booted spy hero but it’s not long before he’s transformed into a pigeon by the socially inept ‘weirdo’ scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland). The two then must find a way to catch the bad guy and clear Sterling’s name and transform him back into a human, all whilst spreading sunshine and sparkles!
The anti-violence message, which forms a backbone to the movie, can be taken one of two ways; either it’s a satirical jibe at all the other spy movies where explosions, killing and maiming are par for the course, or it’s genuinely trying to preach that sunshine, love and rainbows is the solution to all the worlds conflicts. I’d like to think it’s the former because god help us if it’s the latter.
Spies in Disguise is genuinely laugh out loud funny with plenty of slap-stick moments but I like the fact it doesn’t try too hard to be funny. While other animations create characters purely to be jesters (resulting in me wanting to strangle said character; Ice Age, cough, cough) Spies In Disguise evenly spreads the humour around between characters though of course it’s Walter and Sterling that are in the spotlight.
The movie also looks great, there’s a nice visual balance of dark and sinister then explosions of rainbows and sparkles which serve to highlight the two extremes. The characters are well designed the animation is flawless even if the style isn’t hugely original.
I’ve no doubt that Spies In Disguise is aimed at youngsters but it’s the adults that are much more likely to appreciate the film to it’s full extent. Firstly it’s actually pretty dark, it’s definitely no Frozen, Killian dispatches his foe with ruthlessness and there are themes about actions and consequence (Killian briefly explains why he’s on his current path of destruction). The satire too would no doubt to lost on younger viewers.
If you watch this movie without realising it’s satire you may be forgiven for thinking it’s just a lot of other films hashed together. There are of course the standard messages on team-work, humility and acceptance which Hollywood seems to think we’ll forget unless it’s drilled into us at every available opportunity, but at least in Spies In Disguise it isn’t too gut-wrenching and vomit-inducing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this caper and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a bit of not-too-serious humour. It’s certainly a bit of a different take on the Spy-movie genre and who doesn’t want to see a Will Smith pigeon being sexually harassed by Lovey (Walters emotional support animal).
26th December 2019
THE QUICK SELL
When the world's best spy is turned into a pigeon, he must rely on his nerdy tech officer to save the world.