Spies in Disguise voice cast: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire
Spies in Disguise movie director: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
Spies in Disguise movie rating: 2.5 stars
One of the oldest spies known to the world; and one of the world’s coolest. We are referring here, respectively, to pigeons and Will Smith, who in Spies In Disguise are one and the same person. It’s a clever premise — and one of several — in this animation from Blue Sky Studios, the Ice Age maker now acquired by Disney. The film itself is more run-of-the-mill than unique, though ideas like above and the chemistry between the characters voiced by Smith and Holland (also an inspired choice to play a science-geek and gadgets boy) means it all goes down better than it should.
Smith is Lance Sterling, “the greatest spy in the world”, used to defying orders and saving the world, all on his own. Then comes a big villain, a big conspiracy and Sterling finds himself out in the cold. The only person he can turn to is Holland’s Walter, who believes in non-violent weapons, such as Kitty Glitter (more on that later) and inflatable hugs, and has promised Sterling the power to “become invisible”. What Sterling ends up turning into, is a pigeon.
Even as you despair that the film will end up being yet another clash between the forces of good and evil — do we really need them in animation too? — and the power of teamwork and friendship, writer Brad Copeland and directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane subvert the genre. Smith poking fun at the mega-hit chest-puffed characters he has played throughout his career is not even the half of it, as his sidekick Walter rolls out his superpower, it being science. In the process, he scores a big one for all the “weird” boys out there mocked for wearing aprons and dreaming that, for every James Bond, there can be a hero called ‘Hydrogen Bond’.
If science needs each such thumbs-up in the Trump Administration, there is also a message on the US’s constant meddling in world affairs. The villain this time bears a grudge over a bombing carried out by America in Kyrgyzstan — in Sterling’s words, they were just after “a bunch of bad people out to kill a lot of innocent people”.
Walter’s way is that a lot more can be accomplished with love than hate, and letting people live than killing them. Greater people than him have said this, but none with Kitty Glitter to back them up. A glimpse, and the best of villains are reduced to the worst of mush. Walter’s explanation is that it has been scientifically proven that seeing such kitten visuals can cause the release of serotonin. That is an actual scientific fact.
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