‘Spies in Disguise’ review: fun, though forgettable

An amusing, fast-paced, family friendly caper, Spies in Disguise is undemanding, but not quite groundbreaking enough to establish itself as a classic

Starring Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled, and Masi Oka

The partnership of Will Smith and Tom Holland is one that the very few would have conceived of, but is what really makes this film shine. Their constant, snarky partnership throughout the film is delightful as their perfectly mismatched duo.

An animated flick that delights in all the staples of spy adventures, Spies in Disguise adds in the twist of a bodyswap calamity, with a framed hero thrown in for good mix, with only the most unlikely person around to help. Smith voices Lance Sterling, a suave, distinguished spy who protects the world using impeccable combat skills and all means of high-powered technological gadgetry. Of course, what would a spy agency be without the scientists to design and develop these gadgets? That’s where Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) comes in. In contrast to Sterling’s laissez faire attitude towards extreme violence, Walter is a pacifist, swapping out Sterling’s lethal weapons with beautiful glitter explosions and holographic projections instead.

Sterling is forced into a partnership of necessity, however, when he is framed by cybernetically-enhanced terrorist Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) as a traitor, leading him to go on the run and seek out Walter’s help for him to disappear. This leads Sterling to accidentally ingest Walter’s new invention, transforming him into a pigeon. Unfortunately, the antidote isn’t exactly ready, and Sterling’s spy agency bearing down on Walter’s house doesn’t help the process, leading the pair to head off in pursuit of Killian by themselves. Sterling’s status as a pigeon, however, puts him in an unusually vulnerable position that the independent super spy is not used to.

The entire film is a bit of a whirlwind from start to finish. Pacy and frenetic, it zips from scene to scene at insane speeds, nicely balancing humorous moments with ambitious and visually engaging fight sequences and chases. It is amusing throughout, though the comedy is unchallenging and isn’t full of quite so many knowing winks to the audience as other family-oriented films have been. Despite enlisting comedy star Will Smith, it doesn’t exactly achieve the amusing heights of The Emperor’s New Groove and mainly relies upon the farcical absurdity of Sterling’s transformation.

Ultimately, Spies in Disguise is an accessible and enjoyable film which extols the importance of teamwork and how working together is better than working alone, as well as offering viable alternatives to violence. It’s humorous and entertaining throughout, though doesn’t do quite enough to set itself apart from the rest of the genre to become a classic.

Spies in Disguise is available to stream on Disney+, and is also available to rent or buy on other digital platforms.

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