Spy Next Door
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Spy Next Door



As much as I enjoy the movies of Jackie Chan there is one factor that I find extremely disconcerting. The man is a mere one year younger than me yet while I have problems just getting across the room Chan is able to fling his body around at incredible speed completely ignoring the natural laws of gravity. Of course I’m recovering from a stroke and he has devoted his life to rigorous, arduous training so there really is no surprise at the discrepancies between our physical prowesses. With that non sequitur objection aside his films never cease to amaze me for their consistent ability to entertain. It’s sort of like pizza; even when it’s not particularly good it’s still pizza and therefore fun. The flick under consideration here, ‘The Spy Next Door’ is a prime example of this axiom. It is no were near one the best efforts for Chan but it does contain nearly everything you require from one of his movies. There are spectacular stunts that blend martial arts action with good old fashion slapstick humor. Perhaps age is finally catching up with him or maybe he was saving his ‘A’- game for the much higher profile reboot of the ‘Karate Kid’. Between all the jumping, spinning and ducking they forget the importance of a cohesive plot even in an action comedy. This is a PG rated flick so it has to omit any real sense of danger which does blunt some of the impact of the stunts. Chan has cut back on some of his trademark personal stunt work but he still is a far cry from what most people, even professionals in this field would dare attempt. He can no longer play the daring young crook on the run from the mob or the police detective desperately trying to elude the hit men intent on his painful demise. No he plays a retiree inheriting a premade pack of high spirited kids whose ages are calculated to hit the proper demographic for this type of flick.

Proving the point about s Jackie Chan movie this is the type of film that is impossible to dissect for a review or ant form of analytical consideration. As an example of cinema it comes up short in almost criteria. Still, it readily recouped its budget several times over in its theatrical release and is certain to add considerably to that tidy sum with this DVD and Blu-ray edition. This is just the kind of flick that you pull out on a rainy day when the entire family is stuck inside. Pop some corn or order a pizza and just kick back. You don’t have to be concerned that any of the plots will be objectionable; it’s one advantage of not having a plot. Chan may have to depend on Hong Kong style wire work stunts but he’s still impressive for a grandfather. What may be surprising is there are three writers credited with this screenplay. Perhaps this contributed to the general lack of any semblance of a narrative thread; too many cooks and all that. Jonathan Bernstein previously was responsible for ‘Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector’ so he really hasn’t had much opportunity for something in a serious vein yet. Helping out with story and script was his partner for ‘Health Inspector’, James Greer. Rounding of the trio of credited authors is James Greer who is only listed for story conception but is also an alumnus of the Cable Guy’s opus. The tale is full of plot holes and contrivances but really, did anyone ever sit down with their kids to watch this expecting to devote any portion of your brain to following the story?

Chan portrays Bob Ho, a likable sort of guy in love with the girl next door, Gillian (Amber Valletta), the beautiful mother of three children. Ho decides that she is the one so he resigns from his position as one on the CIA’s top covert operatives. Being an international spy should have prepared Bob for anything but that was before he had to win over the approval of the kids. If he can’t get their approval Gillian just will not marry him. Of course something comes up to pull Gillian out of town leaving (Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley) and Nora
(Alina Foley) behind to generally torment the former espionage agent. This situation is bad enough for Ho but when one of the kids downloads highly classified material from Ho’s company computer it puts everyone directly in the crosshairs of evil spy Poldark (Magnús Scheving) the arch nemesis of Ho. I need all sorts of pass codes and encryption just do set up a wireless network but this child can access data like this? I am pretty sure they didn’t hire a national security expert for this flick. With the pressure mounting to simultaneously thwart the Russian terrorist and keep track of three kids Bob reluctantly calls for reinforcements; with partner in the spy world Colton James (Billy Ray Cyrus). Bob has some suspicions concerning him but there is really nothing he can do to avoid asking for help. Until this point he was somewhat successful in keeping his alter identity a secret but when attacked by another spy, Larry (Lucas Till) the proverbial cat is out of the bag, also part of the tangled web of characters is Bob’s former boss Glaze (George Lopez. You shouldn’t be all that surprised when it comes down to Bob working with the kids to save the day, uncover the double agent and most importantly get the approval of the kids because it means their step dad would be a real life spy and that’s cool. The story requires at most two or three brain cell to follow but the action is quick enough that it will hold the attention of family members of all ages.

Posted 05/29/2010

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