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Theatrical Review: THE SPY NEXT DOOR

Don R. Lewis

by: Don R. Lewis
January 15th, 2010

Writers Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer, Gregory Poirier
Director: Brian Levant
Cast: Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley, Alina Foley, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez

Rating: 1/10

The recent spate of monumentally bad movies for kids featuring popular adult actors is starting to make me think studios are just screwing with us. There’s just no way any sensible human being could think movies like OLD DOGS, SHORTS, or ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKUEL are good or entertaining films that anyone would enjoy. And by “human being” and “anyone,” I especially mean kids. After watching the lame, trite and boring THE SPY NEXT DOOR, it’s clear to me studio executives are either enjoying watching the masses pay hard-earned money for what passes for a kid’s movie or they simply do not care about what kids want to see. Oh yeah, and they also think all kids are stupid. How many rehashed storylines of an adult incapable of taking care of kids must we endure before someone wises up and realizes it’s just…not…funny.

Jackie Chan stars as Bob Ho, the idiotic adult in this month's redundant kid-movie-crapfest about a man who can handle anything but childcare. In this one the adult is also a top secret Chinese spy on loan in the U.S. where he works alongside Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez, who we’re also supposed to believe are spies. Ho has fallen for neighbor Gillian, a mother of three, who is played by Amber Valletta who looks just awful. So awful in fact I didn’t even know this was her, the former supermodel, until I looked at the credits. Gillian really likes Bob, but her kids can’t stand him so Bob sets out to win their affections while battling some Russian spies. This is all pretty tame, silly kid movie stuff but when you look closer, some serious issues arise.

For one, Gillian’s two eldest kids Farren and Ian (Carroll and Shadley) are complete and total a-holes. So much so that there’s frankly no way that anyone involved in writing or directing this film likes kids in the slightest. In fact, I’ll come out and say it: the people who made THE SPY NEXT DOOR hate kids. Or, they don’t know any and if they do, the kids they know are hateful creeps bordering on becoming sociopaths. From constant back-talking to locking adults out of the house when their hands are full of groceries and all the way back around to lighting off fireworks and stink-bombs indoors, these kids suck. Real-life kids won’t relate to them and will also hate them as much as I did.

Another issue lies in Gillian’s parenting. That issue being - she’s pretty much the worst parent ever. She allows Bob (who she barely knows) to watch her kids for a few days while she goes off to supervise her father’s hip surgery. She already knows these kids can’t stand him and we also discover the kids have abandonment issues over their father who ditched out, never to be heard from again. Nope, nothing wrong with dumping your kids off with a relative stranger they despise for a few days so he can try to win them over. Then again, how else can the film  get her out of the house so hilarity can ensue? And sure, all this is ticky-tacky griping and right about now you’re saying, “what’d you expect? It’s a kid’s movie!” But there are good kid’s movies, those that empower kids or at least open up a world kids want to be involved with for a little while. A good example of this is SPY KIDS 1 and 2. Robert Rodriguez knows kids and has kids so he made a movie he knew kids would dig. The people who made SPY NEXT DOOR know nothing. And I might, maybe, be able to let it go if this movie wasn’t so frigging boring. And it feels bad saying that because Jackie Chan rules, but honestly, this movie is just plain dull.

Gone are the days of Chan doing his own stunts, as here he’s relegated to kitchen counter parkour and flipping things like brooms and chairs into his hands with his feet. Neat-o. The heftier stunts are clearly done by poorly disguised stunt doubles and are lackluster at best. I don’t even know how to broach the subject that three-fourths of what Chan says is indecipherable so his jokes don’t just fall flat, I’m not even sure they were jokes. Then the “excitement” kicks up as some stereotypical Russian spies show up to get some kind of computer information from Chan and of course the kids get involved. And you know maybe, through it all, they realize Bob is a lot cooler than they thought and is secretly the dad they always wanted but never knew existed. Yawn. THE SPY NEXT DOOR is a dumb, phoned in movie that will appeal to no one. Avoid it, make it fail, and then maybe Hollywood will get the message that kids and adults deserve more from their movie entertainment.

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