Film Review with Robert Mann – The Spy Next Door


The Spy Next Door *½

Hulk Hogan in Mr Nanny, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, ‘Dwayne Johnson in The Game Plan and Vin Diesel in The Pacifier – each of these is an example of a Hollywood action star trading in their tough guy image (presumably for the paycheque) to do films that see them facing the ultimate challenge for any action hero – dealing with a bunch of kids. Now, another addition can be made to this list – Jackie Chan in The Spy Next Door, a film which sounds virtually identical to Vin Diesel’s The Pacifier in virtually every respect, only with trailers that have made it to look considerably less funny. And it’s even got Billy Ray Cyrus in it too – take that as you will. Already a box office flop in the states, where it crashed and burned despite facing virtually no competition from other family movies, the signs haven’t been encouraging for this film and it should come as no surprise that the warnings for this one should definitely be listened to.

Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) is a top international spy working on attachment to the CIA, working under boss Glaze (George Lopez) and alongside partner Colton James (Billy Ray Cyrus). However, Bob wants to give up his ultra-dangerous career to settle down with his neighbour and girlfriend, the lovely Gillian (Amber Valletta). But Bob has one more mission to complete before Gillian agrees to marry him – winning over her three opinionated kids Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley) and Nora (Alina Foley). When Gillian suddenly has to leave town, Bob volunteers to babysit the children so he can earn their approval. Plenty of mayhem ensues as Bob struggles to cope with his feisty charges, but when one of the kids mistakenly downloads a top-secret formula from his computer, Bob’s Russian terrorist arch-enemy Poldark (Magnús Scheving) is alerted to his whereabouts. Now Bob is forced to juggle the roles of spy and prospective stepfather in the most challenging mission of his career…



Where do I start on just how bad The Spy Next Door is? Well, to begin, it blatantly rips off Vin Diesel starrer ‘The Pacifier’ without even coming close to being as good as that film (note to filmmakers – if you are going to rip something off, first choose something that was particularly memorable to begin with, then at least try to do something decent with the concept you’ve stolen), only ever coming across as a pale imitation. More importantly, even when not being compared to that film, The Spy Next Door is still extremely poor. From the very start, with an opening spy fight montage set to the tune of ‘Secret Agent Man’, the film prety much covers every spy cliché in the book and fails to anything with them that hasn’t been done many times before and much better. The storyline and dialogue are tired and predictable, and the characters are completely underdeveloped, having no depth whatsoever and being little more than generic stereotypes – the kids are just annoying, the villains are just Russian, the girl is just the love interest, and so on. The poor characterisation isn’t just the fault of writers, though, but also the actors. Everyone in the cast seems to phone in their performances, Chan and Valletta have absolutely no chemistry, the villians deliver rubbish Russian accents and the kids are mostly pretty annoying, although the latter is probably intentional. Additionally, the film is largely unfunny with lame gags giving the cast absolutely nothing to work with. Only a few instances in the film manage to raise any laughs, these being a few inventive uses of spy gadgets and the film’s one saving grace – Chan’s trademark comic fight sequences. As well choreographed, entertaining and ingenious as ever, Chan’s fights once again show that he really can use pretty much anything as a weapon – things being used here include a bicycle and a refrigerator among many other everyday items – and provide the few scenes in the film that are actually really funny. Sadly, the fights really aren’t enough on their own to make the rest of the film worth sitting through. So, The Spy Next Door is a very poor film with only one redeeming feature that unfortunately still isn’t enough to warrant the price of a cinema ticket, unless you are a very young and undemanding child anyway. Still, if you are a Jackie Chan fan and you ever get the chance to record it when it eventually appears on television it might be worth doing so so that you can fast forward the majority of the film and just watch the fights.

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Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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