Movie Review | Spies In Disguise
By Will Zhang
The Quick Take: Spies in Disguise may be Blue Sky Studios’ first release under Disney ownership, but don’t expect the Disney magic.
Spies in Disguise explores the important issue of fighting violence with love in today’s increasingly hostile world. While top spy agent Lance Sterling (Will Smith) typically flies solo, optimistic millennial and genius inventor Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) tries to convince Lance to reconsider what it means to use science for good. After all, even criminals have lives and emotions. Walter’s inflatable hugs, truth serum, glitter bombs, and bubble gum traps stop felons without casualties, offering an unimpressed Sterling a family-friendly way to get the job done.
Although loosely based on the 2009 short “Pigeon: Impossible,” the plot deviance is significant and there are very few similarities beyond the pigeon. Luckily, the changes mean that this movie has something for (almost) everyone, incorporating elements of comedy, romance, action, adventure, and science fiction. Still, the plot falls short of expectations.
Disney’s recent acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox raises expectations for this movie. While the movie began development long before the acquisition, the numerous delays before its currently scheduled December 25th release left room for some last minute “Disney” touch-ups.
Most Disney films appeal emotionally to their audiences, yet Spies in Disguise does not. Awkward laughter scenes fill critical moments of reflection and suspense; facial expressions are the only signs of deeper emotions. Although it seems the directors wanted to utilize Smith’s comedic talent, this is not the right place. In these important junctions, quality music really helps to express character feelings and advance the plot; alas, the soundtrack lacks moving and memorable songs and lyrics. Instead, music in this production merely fills background noise. Consequently, we feel passive. We do not experience, connect with, nor understand the characters while they ponder next actions or debate morals.
Successful film franchises require a loyal following. Unfortunately, passiveness distances the audience from the characters. Thus, although the ending leaves room for a sequel, it is hard to imagine a successful Spies in Disguise 2.
Further, the production quality does not align with Disney’s typical attention to detail. As the studio for Rio and Ice Age, Blue Sky Studios’ CGI animation is very vibrant. However, the animation falls short when considering the continuity of accessory elements and realism. For example, Sterling’s suit and bow are black and green in the submarine but blue in the covert weapons facility. Movements, such as Katsu Kimura’s flesh, are also unconvincing. This latter area is an aspect where Disney’s Pixar focuses heavily, as evidenced by the realism of marine life in Finding Dory. However, movement realism is also excusable due to the late-stage nature of the acquisition leaving insufficient time to apply more advanced animation technology.
Without any connection to the heroines, the story becomes more of a once-over; there is no yearning for a re-watch, sequel, or merchandise. Despite the warm, powerful message and broad interest appeal, execution is a significant problem—Disney, where is the magic?