Review by C.J. Bunce
A blend of Spectre, Mission: Impossible, and Zootopia is coming your way this Christmas, and it has the look, humor, strong writing, and overall vibe of The Incredibles. It’s director Nick Bruno and Troy Quane′s new animated film, Spies in Disguise. Want to see a U.S. version of James Bond? How about Will Smith as James Bond? Or a story focused on the character Q? Like The Incredibles it has a great musical score, fast action, quick edits, lifelike CGI environments, and fun that will having you laughing out loud throughout the entire movie. That and more is what you get with Spies in Disguise. In his third film this year, Will Smith isn’t actually playing James Bond, but a familiar type of spy named Lance Sterling, who works in a U.S. spy facility in Washington, DC, located under the National Mall. At the section that is the equivalent of the Bond world’s Q Branch is a host of scientists making the latest weaponry and safety equipment for Sterling and his peers.
Enter Spider-Man actor Tom Holland′s Walter Beckett, who has been an inventor of spy gadget toys since his youth, living with his mom who was a cop who later died on duty, and now he’s creating the real thing. Only Walter’s gadgets don’t kill or hurt–they resolve conflicts in other ways. Sterling learns this when he tries to set off a bomb when surrounded by 70 villains at a drug lord’s lair in Japan. Instead of leaving everyone dead, it sets off Walter’s Kitty Glitter bomb–which allows Sterling to escape by temporarily disorienting the enemy with a glitter cloud and cute cat video. This is a great family film with heart like you’d find in the Aardman’s holiday treasure Arthur Christmas, putting a stiff master spy with a young optimist very much like Arthur of the Christmas movie, borrowing that film’s theme, “being weird or different is cool.”
To defeat Sterling’s greatest foes–a cyborg with a high-tech arm named Killian voiced by Rogue One, Ready Player One, and Captain Marvel’s Ben Mendelsohn and the drug lord, Kimura, voiced by Heroes, Hawaii Five-O, and The Meg’s Masi Oka–Sterling needs the ultimate weapon. Walter thinks he has that weapon almost perfected, but before he has a chance to explain it Sterling drinks down the formula for it. As advertised in the trailer, it makes Sterling d-i-s-a-p-p-e-a-r, and in Walter’s view disappear means take on the form of a pigeon–yes, a pigeon–so the spy won’t be detected, because nobody pays attention to pigeons, right? Every city has ’em. And it only gets better from there. Walter’s Q shop of tech ideas is nothing short of brilliant, funny, and even thought-provoking, including his all-protective Inflatable Hug.
Some of that The Incredibles vibe comes from the voice actors cast for the roles of Sterling and Walter’s bosses. Head of the spy agency is Jenkins, voiced by Reba McIntire, who sets agent Marcy Kappel, voiced by Rashida Jones, after Sterling when Killian tricks everyone into thinking Sterling is a double agent. Who knew both McIntire, the award-winning singer, and Jones, the Angie Tribeca star and frequent TV and voice actor, are both ringers for the voice of Holly Hunter, who was the voice of Elastigirl in The Incredibles? Both create interesting characters here, but from the first time Jenkins speaks you’d swear Holly Hunter was behind the scenes. If you’re a fan of Will Smith in roles like in the Men in Black series, with his seemingly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm, fans will find his role as Sterling fits right in.
The band of bird characters are great, and will have kids laughing the whole way through. Other characters with familiar voices include Marcy’s teammates that help her track down Sterling, voiced by Karen Gillan and DJ Khaled. The movie has some fun situations that Sterling and Walter must work together to get out of. Sterling’s futuristic car is showcased in several scenes: an Audi RSQ e-tron, it’s the first concept car from Audi to be created exclusively for an animated film–instead of normal product placements like in the Bond movies added to advertise the car, Audi worked with Blue Sky to create a completely virtual, future car, showcasing features they hope to offer someday. It’s showcased like any Aston Martin you’ll find in the Bond films, and is just as cool, if not cooler.
If you were at all disappointed with The Incredibles 2, this would easily make a great follow-up to the original of that series. It’s not from Pixar and it’s not as visually unique as the original The Incredibles or as groundbreaking visually as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But the story, writing, and humor are just as good. In the theater, when kids weren’t laughing, the adults were. It comes from Blue Sky Studios, the folks behind the visuals on the original Tron, now known for some big, visually exciting films with eye-popping effects, including the Oscar-nominated Ferdinand and Rio, plus Ice Age and The Peanuts Movie. Blue Sky Studios is a 20th Century Fox Animation company, which now falls under Disney, which means it’s now an affiliate of Pixar. So the studio that once was outsourced by Disney to create the imagery of Tron is now owned by Disney–full circle. Hopefully they will be able to continue to make films like this and not gets phased out as a side-effect of the Disney-Fox merger, like David Petersen’s Mouse Guard animated movie.
Check out the trailer:
Tickets are available now. A great choice for the family for the holidays, Spies in Disguise premieres in theaters in the U.S. beginning Christmas Day.