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Monday
Jan182010

The Spy Next Door

Remember when Jackie Chan was still cool? I do. I remember watching him as I grew up. I loved how agile he seemed to be, effortlessly flying through the air performing some of the most amazing acrobatic martial arts I had ever seen. I loved his charm and his sense of humor about things. He was a guy I wanted to hang out with. Sure, his most recent American films have suffered from poor scripts and unfunny one-liners, most notably Shanghai Knights, The Tuxedo and the third Rush Hour, but I still find myself rooting for the guy. His 2008 outing, The Forbidden Kingdom, proved that he was still more than capable of delivering the trademark action and humor he is known for. But then he follows it up with this year's wretched The Spy Next Door, a kid's comedy with one genuine laugh and about 50 irritated groans.

The Spy Next Door follows a fairly routine plot used in a number of other movies about a secret spy who is forced to babysit a handful of little brats that hate him. You'll forgive me if I haven't seen any of them. When I sit down for a Vin Diesel movie, my first inkling isn't to reach for The Pacifier. Anyway, this film plays off that formula, this time starring Jackie Chan as Bob Ho, a Chinese operative on loan to the CIA. He is dating his next door neighbor, Gillian, played by Amber Valletta, but her kids loathe him. He's too "uncool." They think he is a pen importer, but they aren't aware of his secret. After capturing his arch-nemesis early in the movie, he retires so he can spend more time with Gillian and warm up to her kids. Well, Gillian's father is in the hospital and she has to leave town for a few days. Bob thinks this is the perfect opportunity and volunteers to watch over the children, to which she reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately, his nemesis has escaped and is on his way to find Bob.

As you can imagine, the following scenes consist of tired slapstick, constant back talk from the snotty children, and Jackie Chan trying to act hip, doing things that would be embarrassing for even the lowliest of actors, much less a martial artist of his stature. If the mostly silent child audience I watched this with is any indication, this film is a complete failure.

This is due to many reasons, but one is the utter lack of laughs thanks to a piss poor script and Chan's inability to break the language barrier, stumbling over his English like a first time speaker teaching phonetics. You could readily tell a few of his lines were re-recorded in post-production, probably due to this problem.

In romance movies, one tends to talk about chemistry between the two lead actors, but it seems a bit frivolous here as that really isn't the main draw of the movie. Still, each scene between Chan and Valletta was awkward to the point where I felt bad for the actors onscreen. Watching them try to act together and seeing Chan plant his mid-fifty year old lips on a pretty woman 20 years younger than him gave me an unsettling chill down my spine that cannot easily be explained.

The one thing I took a mild liking to was the cheeky James Bond-ish vibe, complete with an enemy with a scar under his eye and his seductive Russian sidekick. The only problem is that they merely exist. There isn't much of a parody here other than that, so the only minor enjoyment this film has going for it becomes moot by the 30 minute mark.

I haven't spent too much time focusing on putting my thoughts together in an articulate way because I don't feel it's necessary to grant this film more effort than it took to put the thing together. No care was put into any of this, aiming only to cheaply exploit the emotions of easily amused children. It's only fair that I care as little. This isn't as bad as the horrific Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, but "bad" takes on many levels. The Spy Next Door is still unwatchable.

The Spy Next Door receives 1/5