Title: The Spy Next Door
Starring: Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez, Will Shadley, Alina Foley, Madeline Carroll, Magnus Sheving
Directed by: Brian Levant
Written by: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: 5/18/2010
Let me start by saying that I am a fan of Jackie Chan movies. He is probably my favorite action star and his films fill a certain void that most action movies are missing these days. I personally prefer his non-Hollywood films such as Rumble in the Bronx and the Police Story films but I do like his other movies as well. I like to watch them for two reasons, the comedy and the athleticism involved with the stunts. Jackie Chan is a true action star and I was relieved to find that the latest offering from my favorite action hero stuck to his proven formula of acrobatic stunts and goofy comedy. While not his best film by a long shot, The Spy Next Door has a great blend of action and low brow comedy wrapped in a familiar yet entertaining family movie setting.
The movie begins with Bob Ho (Chan) wooing his neighbor Gillian (Valletta) over dinner when he is called away for an urgent work matter. We suddenly find ourselves in the backroom of a CIA headquarters station and Bob preparing for a mission while being prepped by Glaze (Lopez) and Colton James (Cyrus). We also learn that Bob is actually a Chinese agent working with the CIA on a mission to track and capture Poldark (Sheving), an international criminal wanted by both governments. When Bob arrives at the industrial complex where Poldark is hiding, he runs into several waves of criminals that he must fight off in true Jackie Chan style. In the end, he captures Poldark and delivers him to the authorities.
The next day, after leaving the agency and vowing retirement in exchange for love, Bob shows up at Gillian’s house with flowers to ask for forgiveness for having to leave so abruptly during dinner the previous evening. Here we start to get a better idea of how much Gillian’s children dislike Bob and how boring they find the “pen salesman” courting their mother. It’s not long before Gillian receives a call and must suddenly leave town to tend to her father who is in the hospital. This sets up Bob to watch the children for a few days in hopes of getting to know them better and eventually accepting him as the man in their mother’s life and ultimately as part of the family.
Of course there is plenty of opposition to this arrangement from many sides. The children are less than ecstatic about the arrangement. Farren (Carroll), actually Gillian’s step daughter whose father left for another woman, is the stereotypical troubled teen with daddy issues. Ian (Shadley) is the geek son trying to fit in at school where he is regularly bullied and harassed and Nora (Foley) is the four year old that keeps Bob on his toes all day long.
As Bob takes on the role of Mr. Mom, his former partner informs him that his recently acquired criminal Poldark has been broken out of custody while in transit to prison. Bob immediately turns down their request for help but agrees to look at some data on the case. Shortly after the receiving the data, Ian downloads it thinking it is some sort of bootlegged concert footage only to alert Poldark to their location by tracking the access to the file over the internet. In the end, Bob must keep the children safe, stop Poldark, identify a mole and be home in time to cook dinner.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=4230&w=o[/img]This movie is an average, run of the mill, formulaic and by the numbers family/action movie. It has cute kids, a troubled teen, an outsider trying to win their hearts and a mother that is just trying to keep her family together. It is not unlike ‘Tooth Fairy’ that I recently reviewed in that respect. Where I think this one succeeds a little more, but not by much, is purely with casting Jackie Chan. I am used to Jackie Chan being down right goofy at times and he is good at it when he does it. Dwayne Johnson on the other hand seemed a little more disingenuous in his role as the Tooth Fairy from time to time.
Unfortunately, The Spy Next Door does suffer from several flaws. The first being that the CGI was less than stellar when it came to some of the spy gadgets that Bob had in his arsenal. Next is that the movie takes quite a while to get off the ground. By the end I found myself a lot more engaged in what was happening than I did in the first 45 minutes or so.
Lastly, and I hate to say it but, at 56 Jackie Chan is a little too old to be playing a role in which his character is wooing a woman 20 years younger with three children. It would have been better had they cast an actress in her mid 40’s than in her mid 30’s. That being said, at 56 Jackie Chan can still move and is in better shape now than most people have ever been in their lives.
Rated PG for sequences of action violence and some mild rude humor.
Unfortunately the 1080P MPEG-4 AVC transfer with an aspect ratio of 1:78.1 is sort of a mixed bag at best. The level of detail was at times great and at times it was only fair. There are some close-ups of Chan in the beginning where the lines on his face really show his age and the details of all the gadgets in the CIA building are really well represented. Shadow delineation was not extraordinary but not horrific either. Some of the night scenes and warehouse scenes are very well represented by different layers of blacks and shadows while other times they are a bit matted. Colors and skin tones looked natural though a bit muted at times. The biggest complaint I have, and subsequently the reason for the low rating, is that there are a couple of scenes that have a fair amount of digital noise in them. Particularly in the scenes involving the interior of Bob’s home where the white walls play host to all kinds of noise. The grain is much too digitized to be intentional.
This is where I would love to say that the DTS-HD-MA really shined however, the sound design for the movie doesn’t lend itself to being anything spectacular. There isn’t really any gunplay, explosions, natural disasters or any other surround encompassing/LFE friendly sound so it does limit the listening experience. The voices are clear, the action scenes balanced and glass shattering is articulated fairly well. There is also a couple of scene changes where there is a deep “swoosh” that completes the transition but nothing to write home about. In fact, I would say that the best audio experience of the entire movie was actually just before it started when the DTS demo ran. I didn’t notice anything wrong with the sound but definitely not anything show worthy to reference on this Bluray either.
Jackie Chan: Stunt Master and Mentor - Working with the King of Action
Adventures in Acting - with the kids from THE SPY NEXT DOOR
DVD Version of Film
Overall I was entertained by the movie but the experience as a whole was very average. The problems I had with the video can be overlooked and the lack luster sound design of the movie itself didn’t seem to have any missed opportunities either. My suggestion is to rent it for a good family movie night. With that said, take care, have a great day and in case I don't see ya later, good afternoon, good evening, and good night! :wave: