Are we looking to spend an evening of genuine fun with the kids or to become kids again and immerse ourselves in the crazy espionage adventures of this 2019 animated movie, Spies in Disguise?
It all begins with a mission by the most infallible secret agent on the planet, Lance Sterling, as he blasts his way by dint of sophisticated gadgets, athletic prowess, and cool jokes into the lair of a dangerous smuggler, Katsu Kimura.
Even with his intelligence and skill, he cannot prevent a mysterious man with a robotic arm, Killian, from running away with a dangerous war drone.
Much worse, when he returns to headquarters under the Washington Monument, he finds waiting for him Marcy Kappel, a colleague from Internal Affairs who accuses him of being the thief who stole the dangerous war prototype.
Indeed, the brilliant Killian employed the drone for some attacks using facial replication technology and hiding behind the visage of Lance, whom everyone holds responsible.
No longer knowing who to trust and unable to call on the agency’s resources, the spy decides to go to the home of a young lab technician he had fired a few hours earlier, Walter Beckett.
Although this young guy has some strange ideas for gadgets that seem unlikely, he claims he is working on a new invisibility device that would serve Lance well in this circumstance.
Only once he swallows Walter’s magic formula does he discover that, unfortunately, this camouflage turns agents into pigeons, exploiting these animals’ anonymity and natural advantages.
Forced inside this small urban bird, Lance must seek help from the bumbling inventor to unravel the plot and clear his name.
However, the kid is more intelligent than he looks, educating him not only to be a better agent but also a better man.
Creativity against violence
Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, the talented directing duo behind 2019’s Spies in Disguise, make a delightful animated movie offering a high-paced adventure for youngsters and adults.
Aesthetically, it reminded me of The Incredibles saga, with style effectively blending retro yet high-tech design in a visually appealing way.
Likewise, the action sequences are both spectacular and entertaining, without leaving aside a few moments of personal character drama to calm the non-stop flow of the adventure.
Written by Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor, the script is more thoughtful than it might initially appear.
First, Lance’s exaggerated character combines charming and unlikeable aspects, making him a self-centered, arrogant protagonist who seems like a one-man army that needs no colleague’s help.
However, his obsession with heroism sometimes leads him to forget what he is really defending and who he is trying to save.
Redemption, however, comes through the character of the young dreamer Walter, although he also initially appears as a stereotype.
However, in the course of the story, his courage and determination emerge, adding the depth of noble morality of wanting to achieve results without wanting to harm anyone.
The idea of making an everyday animal like the pigeon heroic turns out to be highly entertaining, and Lance’s metamorphosis into a bird is ultimately about bonding and solidarity among a pigeon flock, where the importance of unity and mutual support matters.
In a more general aspect, Walter’s influence leads to a radical change in the philosophy of the secret agent, with the young inventor succeeding in instilling in Sterling a radically different approach to fighting enemies, employing the adorable and flamboyant gadgets that emphasize the importance of creativity and nonviolence in conflict resolution.
From Super Spy to Super Fly
After the essential facets of this movie, let’s talk about the voices bringing the animated characters to life on the big screen.
Will Smith, as Lance Sterling, plays mainly himself rather than the character, as he does in many other flesh-and-blood roles played in the past.
However, the inherent charm of the old Bel-Air Prince makes him consistently appealing, ensuring the limitless success of its timeless recipe.
As for Tom Holland, who voices Walter Beckett, I must confess not being a fan of the actor and the recent Spider-Man or Uncharted.
However, his voice fits the naive idealist and catches the spirit of a boy lost in a world that does not appreciate his wacky but forward-thinking ideas.
The cop mother is far too much of a cliché, although at least we are not reminded every two minutes in an intrusive or annoying way.
It is unfortunate that Rashida Jones, with her energetic and charming voice, fails to make agent Marcy Kappel stand out.
This is not the fault of the sunny actress, but her character appears and disappears too quickly to be fully appreciated.
In contrast, Ben Mendelsohn is much more effective as the evil Killian, the villain with the robotic hand.
Although he has few lines, his character is well-developed and is grounded in a believable sense of guilt and anger that makes intriguing his hatred against the protagonist.
Finally, let us mention the always hilarious Masi Oka, my favorite actor and character from the first seasons of the Heroes series.
Oka appears in only two scenes, but both are funny for the big, fat international smuggler Kimura.
These are all the pluses and minuses that come to mind about Spies in Disguise, a movie that nevertheless was a success and grossed over $170 million in 2019.