Monday, June 14, 2010

The Spy with Kids

Before the new "Karate Kid," Jackie Chan tried out his kid friendly persona in "The Forbidden Kingdom" and "The Spy Next Door." "The Spy Next Door" is the common fantasy that that little nobody person we've known for so long is actually a daring hero. This conceit actually works better for Jackie Chan than it did for Arnold "True Lies" or Brad "Mr. And Mrs. Smith." Jackie has always been something of an underdog just by the looks of him. He's average size and his face is more cute than handsome or imposing. It's an image that he has played off of in many films in his career and works well for him here.

In "The Spy Next Door," he's about to retire from the spy game and have a serious relationship. Unfortunately, her three kids don't approve and so she's hesitant to go to the next level. Thus, Jackie's mission is to win the kids over without revealing he's a super spy. When no one is looking he uses his kung fu or spy gadgets to act like a Mary Poppins that can kick ass. There's a subplot of evil spies and a macguffin that eats oil to complicate matters.

These types of films are exercises in cutery and so it depends upon your ability to take in sweetness and light. It also depends a lot on the chemistry of the actors involved. Jackie works just fine, and like most action stars works best when his mouth is shut. The kids though valicate between just bland to in the case of the youngest one shade too cute. Not enough for a diabetic coma but no thank you. The female lead is forgettable, but the villain is good enough and has the ability spar very well. The film is marred by the inclusion of George Lopez. I agree with the "Family Guy" TV show when they said "George Lopez promotes the stereotype that George Lopez is funny."

Ah, the action. Well Jackie still has it, but he is getting old. It's a good thing that he's doing the Mr. Myagi thing in "The Karate Kid," he's just not the Jackie I remember. That's ok, the man is a lot older now, missing a part of his skull for God's sake, so I do understand. But on the other hand don't start the film with scenes from his younger self in other movies. That threw my groove off a bit. The spy gadgets were fairly bland as well, though I did like the belt that could be whipped out and instantly straightens to act like a staff or a blunt sword. Give Jackie something like that and bad guys beware.

So, really this is a mostly harmless film. Most kids will enjoy it, and I think it is a fine film for Jackie's golden years. Still... hey Jackie, I have three rolls for you to consider. 1) Jackie Chan (you both have the same names!) 2) Li Kao from "The Bridge of Birds." 3) Cheung from "The Destroyer" series. Oh wait, how about the Mandarian for Iron Man 3?

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