By Fred Topel | Image property of Universal Pictures
The Spy Next Door
I was surprised to see The Spy Next Door open with clips of other Jackie Chan movies. I guess it’s an easy way to establish the character’s backstory as a man of action. He’s already provided the best stock footage around. They’ve got Rush Hour, Operation Condor, The Tuxedo and a few others in there. I guess New Line, Disney and Dreamworks were happy for a little extra residuals on their investments.
Review: The Spy Next Door
It kind of fits because this movie is Jackie Chan highlights for kids. They’ll see his standards, climbing walls, flipping over barriers, fighting with various props. They even hearken to a few Police Story and First Strike classics. Some original bits are just adorable, like a little girl on Jackie’s leg.
You may notice a little more editing, a few more shots from behind, a few scenes where Chan is costumed with a mask. So maybe someone’s sharing the burden with him. I say give the guy a break. It’s still Jackie Chan’s moves. I never thought the “doing his own stunts” thing was important. The creativity of the simplest moves was what mattered. You definitely see some single takes of Chan doing the best stuff, and man, he can still move.
Chan’s art was always designed to be accessible to this audience. He can do the domestic Mr. Mom slapstick. The plot of a Jackie Chan movie has never been important, so the broad strokes here are fine. Harried family scenes establish the formula for the wild children who’ll come around and learn to love their new father figure. Of course a former supermodel plays the single mother of three, because kids should know that that’s what all single mothers look like.
They may be giving kids the real Jackie Chan, but they’re not giving them a real spy world. With George Lopez as the boss and Billy Ray Cyrus as a techie, this ain’t Casino Royale. The gadgets are lame, but hey, they’ve got Spy Kids for that. It serves its purpose here, and the purpose is Jackie Chan.
The film itself may be poorly done. There are some sloppily staged scenes, but what are you looking for? They put up a stage for Jackie Chan to entertain children and they’re not going to see anything better in Harry Potter. These kids are way cuter than Agent Cody Banks anyway.
Most importantly, the film gets what’s special about Jackie. It’s not making him say the N-word or comment on someone’s rack. It’s about performing and he is still awesome. He does a hand plant and a move with the refrigerator that are just awesome. He brings flow to the rigid formula of a generic kids movie, and I’m not too old to love it.