Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The situation, as it were, was that it was my son’s birthday and as tradition dictates he gets dinner and a movie of his choice. Within reason. His first choice was ‘Ninja Assassin’. Even if this was still playing that wasn’t happening. Then he opted for ‘The Book of Eli’. I realize he just turned fourteen and he’s a ‘man’ now but PG-13 is as high as it goes. His choices were ‘Avatar’… again… ‘Tooth Fairy’ and this movie ‘The Spy Next Door’. The boy said he couldn’t do The Rock in a tutu so ‘The Spy Next Door’ won out by default. It was his day and it was his choice but I strongly recommended he reconsider this choice since I had seen both movies but he held fast to his convictions and a ‘The Spy Next Door’ it was. The Rock in a tutu never looked so good.

I think I liked this movie more when it was called ‘The Pacifier’ and I really didn’t like ‘The Pacifier’ all that much. Jackie Chan is Bob Ho, a Chinese secret agent on loan to the CIA tracking some Russian spies who are attempting to do some bad stuff in New Mexico. Why Russian spies are in New Mexico is beyond me but we're rolling with it. Bob’s cover is that of a nerdy Pen salesman and in this cover he has fallen for the lovely Gillian (Amber Valletta), but alas he is not all that popular with her hateful children.

As circumstance would have it, Gillian gets called away out of town and somehow Bob convinces her to leave her three kids with him so they can get to know each other better. To jump ahead a bit, after the junk hits the ceiling, Gillian will be understandably upset about her kids being in harms way, but honestly who is really to blame here? The guy she’s known for three months who can barely speak English or Gillian for being such a crappy, irresponsible mom? Come on now.

So Bob is watching these kids which include the EXTREMELY hateful thirteen year old Farren (Madeline Carroll), nine year old Ian (Will Shadley) who is slightly less hateful but is a pathological liar and four year old Nora (Alina Foley). These kids set about making Bob’s life a living hell and they really do a fine job of it, but of course Bob’s Russian Spy enemies, which consist of Poldark (Magnus Scheving) and his femme fatale Creel (Katherine Boechner) are closing in. Note that actress Katherine Boechner has without a doubt one of the funniest takes on a Russian accent that I’ve ever heard. Mayhem and chaos will ensue, kids will somehow become even more hateful, more mayhem, kids will find love, Bob will lose love, Bob will regain love and since it’s a Jackie Chan movie the final credits sequence will probably be more entertaining than the movie we’ve just seen.

I’m not going to be too hard on ‘The Spy Next Door’ because it is a kid’s movie and kids say under the age of ten will probably really enjoy this movie. My freshly anointed fourteen year old didn’t enjoy this movie… ‘lame’ would be the word that he used… but other younger kids in the theater were very giggly at a lot of the parts in the movie. If I were to compare this movie to ‘Tooth Fairy’, a movie that I was convinced I would despise, but that movie won me over because that movie managed to find a way to entertain this particular adult while still maintaining its appeal to kids. At least somewhat. This movie not-so-much. I mean it was really, really infantile in addition to being tired and predictable.

But while I can get past the whole infantilism of the entire movie, what I always have a problem with is bratty kids a movies and you will be hard pressed to find a more hateful child than the child being played by young Madeline Carroll. Rosemary’s Baby just sent me a text noting that he thought she needed to bring the hate down a notch. Again, we realize that this is how these movies work and that the kids have to hate this guy just to be brought around to loving this guy, and while we will casually ignore the fact that the path from hate to love was extremely shaky, we do have to admit that we wouldn’t have been too upset if some of these kids had caught a stray bullet or two. If bullets were actually being fired off in this spy caper, which they were not.

We should also make mention that Mr. Chan is going to be sixty soon and as such there wasn’t an awful lot of Chan-ism action going on in this movie. This is probably the reason why this movie had this rather sweet elongated opening credit sequence showing Mr. Chan is in action scenes from a bunch of his previous movies under the song ‘Secret Agent Man’ to let you be aware of all of the stuff you WON’T be seeing in this movie. What was there was well done however.

We can say positively that Magnus Scherving was pretty darned funny as the villain in this movie, we already mentioned Katherine Boechner’s wacky Russian accent and Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez show up in this movie as well. Note that there is an ‘evil mole’ at the CIA and we’ve only met two other CIA agents in Cyrus and Lopez so flip a coin.

It’s a kid’s movie and as I stated earlier I think really young kids will like this movie. The age of ten being the cutoff point I think. Personally, given a choice, I’d just as soon rent ‘Finding Nemo’ again.

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