SPY NEXT DOOR, THE
After busting the nasty Russian terrorist Poldark (Magnus Scheving), CIA spy Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) wants to make a commitment to his girlfriend Gillian (Amber Valetta) but her three brattish children, Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley) and Nora (Alina Foley) are not at all keen on Bob. When Gillian has to go out of town to look after her sick dad, Bob offers to take care of the kids - who promptly break into his computer and accidentally download a highly sensitive file which sets off the escaped Poldark and his henchwoman Creel (Katherine Boecher), on the chase along with the CIA, with Bob desperately juggling his babysitting with international espionage.
Review by Louise Keller:
It doesn't matter how old you are to warm to Jackie Chan as The Spy Next Door. Chan's Bob Ho is a pretty smart guy. He might pretend to be a pen importer to hide his real identity as the best spy the CIA ever had ('the sharpest barb on the wire'), but when he says 'Spying is easy; parenting is not', everyone connects. Filled with hilarious set ups, impossibly executed stunts plus an engaging central story about family and being loved, this funny action comedy is great entertainment for the whole family.
It's not until the outtakes during the closing credits that we have any conception how tricky all the stunts are. Chan makes them look so easy as he fights the bad-guy Russians intent to sabotage the world's oil reserves with the belt that doubles as a sword and executes amazing acrobatic routines using a bike, a chair, a tap, a spaghetti pot, a fridge and a couple of frying pans. If anything looks as though it's a challenge for Chan, it's his English; shimmying up rooftops and nimble martial arts moves look like second nature to the ever elegantly nimble action star. Director Brian Levant gets the tone just right and the screenplay is a clever construct in which Chan's character has to win over the three kids, in order to win the girl (Amber Valetta, lovely). The trouble is, the kids think he's uncool and a robot. Now here's the clever bit. He doesn't win them over because of all his cool spy gadgetry and amazing physical skills, but does so on their own terms as he teaches them values and the important things in life.
It's an interesting cast that includes singing star Billy Ray Cyrus as the hillbilly CIA agent, Magnús Scheving as the Russian baddie with a dysfunctional wardrobe, Katherine Boecher as the leggy over-the-top blonde and the three kids are great too (Alina Foley, Will Shadley and Madeline Carroll) who each represent a different age group and as a consequence have different issues. But it's all about Chan, as he gets his mission accomplished, offering us an pleasurable and rollicking ride along the way.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Jackie Chan always guarantees a good time with his friendly manner combined with intricate fight stunts inventively choreographed and smoothly executed and this is no exception. This time, it's not quite so serious, though, as he tackles a task even more daunting than bad guys: convincing three youngsters that he deserves to marry their mum, Gillian (Amber Valetta), his next door neighbour. The three youngsters range in age from 4, Nora (Alina Foley) through 10, Ian (Will Shadely) and 13, Farren (Madelaine Carroll) - the brattiests of them all, going through the worst of prepuberty.
Chan, playing a clownish Bob Ho who wants to retire from the spying game so he can settle down with Gillian, sets up a series of opportunities for his trademark stunts, all built into a script that spoofs spy movie plots and even characters. Poldark (Magnus Scheving) with his bad fake Russian accent is a figure of fun as he tries a variety of clothes to try and be unobtrusive in America (running wardrobe gags are always entertaining) and Katherine Boecher makes the most of the self parodying moll, Creel, with overpainted face and a smile to kill with.
Ambera Valetta has to play it straight, of course, as the love interest and mum, while her children are given varying degrees of precociousness. Ian's the best/worst, with absuyrdly adult dialogue, to match his absurd intelligence - which he needs to keep hidden, needless to say.
It's escapist fun for all the family, and even the baddies manage a few gags; there's nothing too scary, and a few fandangled spy gadgets add to the cool factor. The parenting themes are well balanced and carry a soft message, and the resolution gives everyone a chance to shine.
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SPY NEXT DOOR, THE (PG)
CAST: Jackie Chan, Amber Valetta, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadely, Alina Foley, Magnus Scheving, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez, Katherine Boecher, Mia Stallard
PRODUCER: Robert Simonds
DIRECTOR: Brian Levant
SCRIPT: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer, Gregory Poirier
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Cundey
EDITOR: Larence Jordan
MUSIC: David Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen J. Lineweaver
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 25, 2010