Spies In Disguise is one of the last animated movies to be released in 2019 before we make way for 2020. The premise is simple; what if James Bond or Mission Impossible‘s Ethan Hunt transformed into a pigeon? How will he complete his missions? By teaming up with a ‘weird’ genius teenager, of course.
That’s basically all you need to know going into the latest animated movie from Blue Sky Studios, the company behind the tired Ice Age franchise and several movies featuring endangered blue macaws from Brazil. It’s nice to see these folks delving into some new material for a change.
Bland, James Bland
There are no surprises waiting for you in Spies In Disguise.
The plot is predictable and even too corny at times, as originality and innovation are clearly not what the studio was aiming for.
Instead, what you get with this movie is a charming and hilarious take on popular James Bond or spy tropes that are sometimes too on the nose.
Don’t expect smart and meta humour like The Lego Movie or even The Angry Birds Movie 2. The movie would’ve benefitted from a stronger and smarter script if the studio truly wanted to distinguish themselves and avoid limiting the movie to just younger audiences.
That said, the animators still managed to slip in one or two spicy inside jokes for older members of the audience to enjoy, but most of the material is too juvenile to the point of cringeworthiness. I won’t spoil the main plot of the movie, though it’s something you’ve literally seen a thousand times before, and done better in actual spy movies.
Will Smith is essentially playing himself in Spies In Disguise, a cocky and overconfident superspy named Lance Sterling, while Tom Holland portrays the awkward outcast teen prodigy who just wants everyone to do things ‘in a better way’.
Their relationship dynamic is the real highlight of the movie, and it’s only really a success thanks to the performance of both actors, who (like I previously mentioned) are basically playing themselves, comfortable in their usual typecast roles.
Ben Mendelsohn is also playing to his usual typecast, portraying a bioterrorist with a robot hand named Killian. To his credit, this villain does at least exude a threatening aura, of which many modern animated movie antagonists lack.
Despite being only 102 minutes in length, Spies In Disguise drags in the middle, although the movie does it best to regale you by visiting exotic locales like Venice, Italy, and Mexico, just like an international spy movie typically would.
With a simplistic premise, Spies In Disguise struggles to satisfyingly fill up even that relatively short runtime. The movie is content on just relying on action setpiece after setpiece. Though these are often played for comedic slapstick effect, they are actually thrilling and shot in a way that’s dynamic and great to watch.
In fact, I would say that the action sequences are the only thing keeping this movie from truly falling into mediocrity, especially for older viewers who find the humour too childish for their tastes.
It is very much one of the only redeeming factors of the movie.
Despite that, the action in the movie isn’t close to being on par with other recent animated movies like 2018’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World from earlier this year, both of which featured awe-inspiring action sequences.
In comparison, the action in Spies In Disguise is merely serviceable. It does its job, though it probably won’t stick with you long after you watch the movie.
In a year when we already received far superior animated offerings like Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 (to mention a few), Spies In Disguise doesn’t do nearly enough to stand out.
It’s a disappointing effort from Blue Sky Studios, who is probably now working hard to escape from under the shadows of the once-profitable Ice Age franchise.
In this day and age, it’s not enough to just be okay, even if you are an animated movie geared towards children. I’m not expecting something on the level of anything from Disney or Pixar, but Blue Sky Studios could have potentially done a lot better.
Despite that, there is clearly still a franchise potential to Spies In Disguise, though only time and money will tell if the movie ultimately deserves more sequels.
Final Rating: 50/100
We received a preview screening courtesy of The Walt Disney Company Malaysia. Spies In Disguise premieres in Malaysian cinemas on 26 December 2019.