Thursday, December 19, 2019

Review: Spies in Disguise

Release date: December 25, 2019
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Rachel Brosnahan

Spies in Disguise is a new animated film by Blue Sky Studios, the Sony animation studio that is most well known for the Ice Age films.  Spies in Disguise follows super agent Lance Sterling (Smith) when he is forced to team up with brilliant, but kind of bumbling Walter Beckett (Holland) to stop a major threat.  The two have very different strengths and styles, but will have to work together and learn from each other to have any hope of fixing the situation.  Oh, and Lance Sterling spends much of the movie as a pigeon, which further complicates things.    

Spies in Disguise is inspired by 1960s-style action movies and it definitely shows throughout the film.  Lance is the suave, always on top of it spy who wears a tuxedo in the field and sips martinis--basically an animated James Bond.  And the film has beautiful animation with bright colors (when needed), some pretty amazing glitter and other effects, and a variety of locales.  The style is carried over into the sound as well, which has an awesome modern take on 60s style music; the film blends 60s sounds with hip hop artists and some other appropriate sound effects.  It gives the film a unique sound that accentuates the wonderful animation.

Because the two main characters are required to work together, the chemistry between them could make or break this film.  Thankfully, Will Smith and Tom Holland are perfect as an unlikely duo: Smith as a debonair, confident super agent and Holland as the nerdy, awkward, but brilliant scientist.  They play off each other perfectly and have some very funny dialog as they learn to cooperate.  Spies in Disguise's humor follows a trend with animated movies, by making jokes that both kids and adults can enjoy.  There are some references that only the parents will get, which keeps the film interesting for young and old audiences.  In this vein, much of the dialog also has double meaning to keep adults and kids entertained.

However, Spies in Disguise is a much darker movie than I expected for a kids film.  The directors said that the did this to help balance some of the inherent silliness of the movie.  The gritty style helps to ground the movie despite some of the wacky events happening throughout.  My child didn't mind, but if you have small children this movie might be a little scary even for them.  

Spies in Disguise should not be pigeon-holed into a second tier animated film.  It is a beautifully animated adventure featuring two leads with great chemistry, some truly impressive animation, and a fantastic soundtrack to entertain both young and old.

Watch It

BONUS: Check out a Q&A with Directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane.  They talk about the movie, the stars Will Smith and Tom Holland, and the directorial process and how they came up with some of the wacky gadgets.  Warning, this contains spoilers from the film.

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