REVIEW: “Spies In Disguise”; The Emperor’s New Pigeon

Good news! Fox is Disney now! Bad news: Fox still isn’t Disney. But lately, neither is Disney.

In regards to Disney, it just seems there has been a decline in quality when it comes to their animated films. This is especially true when you compare recent films to classics such as “Snow White,” and even modern day classics, such as “Tangled.” It just feels like Disney is more concerned about generating huge returns at the box office for their movies than good storytelling. That is why we have seen Disney lately banking on more and more sequels, which have a built-in audience, as opposed to something truly original and innovative.

So knowing all of that, I was cautiously optimistic about “Spies In Disguise.” I gave Disney a lot of credit for not being a sequel or a remake.

That was until I actually started watching the film and realized it is basically “The Emperor’s New Groove,” where they switched out a talking llama for a talking pigeon.

I consider “The Emperor’s New Groove” a guilty pleasure of mine. I wouldn’t label it a Disney classic. But when I need a good laugh, it is one film I love to go to. It’s just a fun and entertaining movie with likeable characters and fantastic voice work. It is also highly re-watchable. Unfortunately, “Spies In Disguise” is nowhere near as good.

In “Spies In Disguise”, super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is super cool and super suave — absolutely no one does it better than Lance Sterling.

On the other hand, Scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) works behind the scenes (way behind the scenes) to create gadgets so Lance can succeed in his missions.

Lance is framed and has to clear his name. While on the run, he meets up with Walter, who accidentally turns Lance into a pigeon. Now, this unlikely pair has to team up to clear Lance’s name and turn him back to a human. And they also have to save the world!

Will Smith has always been hit or miss for me, but mostly miss. There are times Smith is really good in this movie. For me, it is when he is being serious and emotional. But for most of this movie, he is just being Will Smith, or The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. When serious things happen to his character Lance, Will Smith really shines. I wanted to see more of that, but instead we get a bunch of pigeon, poop and vomit jokes.

I will tell you that one thing that I was really impressed with: the opening credits. It was a bit of a James Bond opening title montage with some animated flair. Really nice and inventive.

Tom Holland as Walter is basically his portrayal of Peter Parker in the Spider-Man and Marvel movies. He wants to be a part of the team, but no one really bothers to give him the time of day or take him seriously.

Walter’s inventions are a little out there. They are mostly sparkly devices or involve taking down enemies by their love of kittens. He kind of reminds me of Flint Lockwood from “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs,” but maybe a little too much.

Speaking of “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs,” the animation does remind me of that style of animation from time to time.

“Spies In Disguise” does not have the stunning look of Disney or Pixar animated features. Disney is really second-to-none when it comes to its animation style. Hopefully, we will see a vast improvement in future Fox animated films since Disney is now in control of all animation departments.

The villain in this movie, Killian (great name, by the way) was played by Ben Mendelsohn. He was actually very good but did not have enough screen time and could have been utilized more. Killian is quite ruthless in ways, and I was surprised his character executed some pretty nasty things — especially for an animated film. This film needed less pigeon and more Killian.

I never thought I would find a rat as a main character fun and likeable. But in Ratatouille, I did. I can’t say the same for a rat with wings in the case of “Spies In Disguise.” I think the movie would have been more enjoyable if they just lost the whole pigeon scenario and made it focus on two unlikely characters having to team up and save the world. More like an action animated film with some comedy and not vice-versa.

This film just doesn’t feel like Disney. And it’s not. It feels more like it belongs in the “Secret Life Of Pets,” “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” and “Ice Age” category of animated films. I just hope that one day we will see future Fox animated films in the same category as Disney and Pixar. For now, Fox animation just feels like a cheap knockoff.

If you have kids, especially younger kids, they will probably really like “Spies In Disguise.” I’m not sure how most parents are going to feel about this one. Some may like it and some may not. You can either take your kids to this movie and have them really enjoy themselves for about an hour and a half, or wait a few months for this to be available on streaming services. I would choose the latter and just sit down with the family and enjoy “The Emperor’s New Groove” on Disney+ for now.

I give “Spies In Disguise” a 5/10.

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