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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Little Late Film Review: The Spy Next Door (2010)

The Spy Next Door (2010, Relativity Media)

I wanted to challenge myself.  I wanted to find a movie to review that I knew I would hate, and rip on it.  I didn’t want to pick on a B-grade, straight-to-DVD disaster, that’s too easy.  While searching I stumbled across a recent film from Brian Levant, director of such “masterpieces” as Jingle Al the Way and both of the terrible Flintstones movies.  Now this guy has made some bad movies, so I knew what I was up against sitting through this The Spy Next Door.  I had a feeling from the start that this was going to be a “Blooper Reel Movie”; that being a movie that runs outtakes at the end to remind us how fun the filming was.  Many of Chan’s films have one, and I wondered if this one would have one too.

The Spy Next Door opens with clips of Jackie Chan being awesome, showing clips of various stunts from other films.  It then cuts to a seemingly normal and very cliché suburban household, complete with the smart kid, the angst-ridden and defiant teen and the bratty younger kid, oh and did I mention they have a pet pig?  How quirky!  The scene is chaotic, trying to show us what this beautiful mother is up against in the morning before taking her kids to school.  Really, it mainly exists to set up the relationships between the characters as it does hold some importance to the story later.  If only the story really mattered here.

Essentially, Gillian (the mother, played by Amber Valletta) is in love with Bob (played by Jackie Chan).  The kids think Bob is a dork, and he does a good job of acting like one.  Little do they know that Bob is actually a CIA agent on loan from Hong Kong.  Why?  It doesn’t matter, he just is.  Bob is given some top secret data by his boss (played by George Lopez).  Bob then offers to baby-sit Gillian’s kids, as an opportunity to connect with them, and the smart son, Ian, steals the data from Bob’s computer thinking it’s some rare concert recording.  Bad guys find out!  Enter the inept goons!  This is all just a contrived setup, however, because this movie exists to have Jackie Chan jump, climb, flip and swing his way around each set. 

The action scenes in the Spy Next Door are okay.  Jackie Chan is good at doing crazy stunts and there are quite a few of them here.  Some of them give him some special effects assistance but most are practical.  A couple of the stunts are actually impressive, but they merely serve as a distraction to remind us we are watching a Jackie Chan movie.  The rest of the film doesn’t fare all that well.

The dialogue is not really all that bad.  It’s filled with clichés, platitudes and really lame puns, but it’s harmless.  Billy Ray Cyrus, who has a small part as an agent, has some of the worst lines, spouting out phony colloquialisms to establish the fact that his character is a country boy.  The two eldest kids aren’t bad, often laying out lines that they are given well, and Madeline Carroll, who plays the teen daughter, does show some signs of true acting chops.  Still, they managed to make a mediocre script worse by having two thirds of the cast speak unintelligibly.  The youngest daughter mumbles and squeaks her lines, the Russian villains are unintelligible and Jackie Chan bumbles and slurs his English, often sounding like a retarded ten year old.

The final major problem with the Spy Next Door is that the 94 minute running time could easily be cut down to an hour if you cut out all of the filler.  Pointless asides, horrible exposition sequences and two particularly overlong scenes, one in a mall, and one in a restaurant, all make up only a portion of the fat this film is laced with.  The film is at its worse when it tries to have heart.  These “sincere” ramblings between characters are boring and uninspired.  They use up two to three minutes to explain something that could have been told to us in a matter of seconds, if at all. 

The Spy Next Door is not the worst film I’ve seen by Brian Levant.  Actually, it may very well be his best movie, but that isn’t saying much considering his track record.  Jackie Chan is out of place here, even though this film was obviously made with him in mind.  There’s a huge disconnect between the main characters and the plot.  Sometimes it even feels like two movies.  This lack of cohesion and the horrendous execution of the dialogue by most of the cast make this one a big loser. 

P.S.  There was a blooper reel at the end of this one too.

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