Do I Spy a Classic in Disguise? 

20th Century Studios UK

Attracting big names like Will Smith, Tom Holland, Reba, and DJ Khalid, Blue Sky Studio’s animated film Spies in Disguise entertains children and adults alike with a wonderful mix of action and humor. First-time director Nick Bruno has plenty of experience with animated films as the supervising or senior animator on Ice Age, The Peanuts Movie, and Rio. Co-directing with Troy Quane, another first-time director, they gathered plenty of well-known actors who could bring in viewers.  

Walter (Tom Holland), a twenty-year-old genius, is determined to create safer and more peaceful ways for spies to defeat their enemies. Unfortunately, this isn’t a view shared by most in the spy organization, but when superspy Lance (Will Smith) is framed and on the run, he turns to Walter’s science to help him disappear. He mistakenly drinks a solution that turns him into a pigeon, flinging him into a comedy-filled adventure to clear his name, avoid capture, and save the world. He does this all while being, according to him, a “rat with wings.” Needing an antidote, Lance drags along Walter whose goal is to convince Lance of a “better way” and that pigeons are the “most perfect form a spy can take!” Their interactions as they travel around the world from Italy to Mexico to DC along with how Lance adjusts to life as a pigeon allows for plenty of humor. 

As a rule of thumb, animation style is critical to any animated movie. Spies in Disguise boasts a clear and smooth animation. Objects and characters are 3D and detailed in expressions and clothes. As with all animation, proportions are slightly irregular, and the long limbs and necks might throw some off temporarily at the start, but overall, the animation shows Blue Sky’s experience and budget for animating. Fun gadgets, like the invisible hug, kitty glitter and serious string, and vivid colors make scenes fun and pleasing to watch and experience. Some variations in body types and people of color, including Lance, are included throughout the film although the representation of people from Japan is purely the yakuza criminals.  

Both kids and parents will enjoy this family-friendly comedy. Though having a fairly cliché plot – jaded hero reluctantly bonds with optimistic character and learns to appreciate them – fun and quirky characters combined with a strange, yet entertaining humor create a movie that won’t disappoint. Bone-disappearing rays turning arms dealers to pudding, truth serums, and a few borderline age-appropriate jokes commonly involving the “cloaca,” are just a few of the jokes that make Spies in Disguise so fun to watch. Some of the jokes are childish, as can be expected in an animated family film, and the plot a bit predictable, which may be a reason this Blue Sky’s Studio movie wasn’t quite as successful as their others, such as Rio or Ice Age. Moments of belly laughter and the pure absurdity of watching a spy pigeon still create a worthwhile experience, though. 

Even though Tom Holland’s and Will Smith’s characters didn’t bring in droves of people as one might’ve thought, they play enjoyable characters worth watching. Lance Sterling is a stereotypical superspy (the opening credits parody the James Bonds Films) famous in the spy’s underground world and known for flying solo. Although not showing as much depth and change as Walter, Lance learns to work with others, caring for Walter, and learns that there is a better way than violence. On the other hand, Walter has more backstory and delivers dorky science puns; for example, his mother dies young in the line of duty as a police officer and Walter is bullied and ostracized. Although their characters can be cliché at times, Walter and Lance are fun and endearing. 

More minor characters, most notably the three internal investigators and the antagonist Killian (Ben Mendelsohn), and other side characters also play a huge part in the movie. Marcy (Rashida Jones) is the lead investigator and gets increasingly frustrated when she can find no trace of Lance. The other investigators include the bubbly Eyes (Karen Gillan) and chill Ears (DJ Khalid). Killian is introduced at the beginning of the movie as the main villain. He also has a typical backstory; however, he functions as a perfectly fine villain who brings some perspective to Lance about his more violent methods.  

Compared to Ice Age, Epic, and other Blue Sky Studio films, Spies in Disguise is more humor-based, causing a hit to character development. However, the characters are still fun and relatable. The movie has a wonderful lesson for young children and absolutely a recommendation for a movie to watch with kids and that can be enjoyed as adults as well. To everyone who enjoys animated movies, watch Spies in Disguise and enjoy Tom Holland and Will Smith’s characters. And who knows – you might rethink your opinion of pigeons by the end. 

 

 

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