Monday, 30th October 2017

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‘Spies in Disguise’ review: Not very eye-opening

A colourful animated offering

By Glenn Kenny/The New York Times News Service
  • Published 27.12.19, 7:54 PM
  • Updated 27.12.19, 7:54 PM
  • a min read
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A scene from the movie Source: ‘Spies in Disguise’

Will Smith voices an “is there anything he can’t do?” secret agent whose massive skills are dwarfed by his humongous ego in Spies in Disguise, a colourful but not very eye-opening animated offering from Blue Sky, the studio that brought us the Ice Age diversions. The character is an amiable-to-the-point-of-toothless sendup of Smith’s celebrity persona and many of the roles he’s played.

His super spy Lance Sterling is framed for treason by a sneering villain with a robotic claw hand. When the agency pursues Lance, he goes on the lam and seeks help from a colleague. The gizmo inventor Walter Beckett (voiced by Tom Holland), a young man of floppy hair and poignant back story, contrives the perfect (or so Walter believes) cover for Lance. He turns him into a pigeon. There’s much lip-smacking (not the good kind) humour concerning the waste elimination functions of the bird (the most memorable banter has Walter explaining to Lance what a cloaca is) and the weird proclivities of the real birds who attach themselves to Lance. Soon enough this stuff gives way, partially at least, to homilies on teamwork and friendship.

The lessons are so treacly, and their delivery method so single-minded, that the Valley Girl phrase “gag me with a spoon” springs to mind. But you have to give the movie credit for sticking to its lack of guns. Walter can’t stand the prospect of wounding even the worst of baddies, so his arsenal consists of weapons of charming distraction. The movie’s finale, with its panoply of glitter bombs and oversize “awww”-inspiring flying cat GIFs, well-timed by the directors Troy Quane and Nick Bruno, works up some undeniable charm.