Movie Review

The Spy Next Door also known as “O kataskopos tis diplanis portas”

MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action violence and some mild rude humor.

Reviewed by: Laura Busch
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family Kids
Genre:
Family Action Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 32 min.
Year of Release:
2010
USA Release:
January 15, 2010 (wide—2,800+ theaters)
DVD: May 18, 2010
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Relevant Issues
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Spies in the Bible

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Featuring: Jackie Chan (Bob Ho), Amber Valletta (Gillian), Madeline Carroll (Farren), Will Shadley (Ian), Alina Foley (Nora), Magnús Scheving (Poldark), Katherine Boecher (Creel), Lucas Till (Larry), Billy Ray Cyrus (Colton James), George Lopez (Glaze), Troy Brenna (Russian Bodyguard), Kevin Christopher Brown (Russians' Scientist), Steven Ray Byrd (CIA Agent—as Steven Byrd), Jeff Chase (Russian), Stephen Eiland (Taxi Driver), Mark Kubr (Russian Thug #1), Quinn Mason (Carl—bully), David Mattey (Russian Bodyguard), Maverick McWilliams (Chad), Mia Stallard (Cute Girl), Arthur Wooldridge (Mall Shopper / Diner Patron)
Director: Brian Levant
Producer: Relativity Media, Ryan Kavanaugh, George Parra, Ira Shuman, Robert Simonds, Solon So, Tucker Tooley
Distributor: Lionsgate Films

“Spying is easy. Babysitting is hard.”

Bob Ho (Jackie Chan), a recently retired spy, gladly takes on his hardest case yet—caring for and gaining the approval of his girlfriend, Gillian’s (Amber Valleta) three strong-willed children. When Gillian’s son Ian (Will Shadley) accidentally downloads a top-secret file from Bob’s computer, he and the children are in for more adventure than they ever imagined, as they must fend-off Russian terrorists, who are in pursuit of the top-secret code.

Positive Elements

“The Spy Next Door” is a relatively clean children’s action-adventure movie and has several positive lessons that may be derived from it, even though these moral lessons are presented in a rather superficial manner. At the beginning of the film Gillian explains to Bob that her children are her priority and that they must approve of him before she can marry him. Bob also acknowledges that if he marries Gillian he’s not only marrying her but her whole family. When the children complain to their mother that Bob is boring and a dork, Gillian tells her children that she admires his honesty, loyalty, dependability and that those are the qualities that make a good husband and father. As the film progresses, we see the children begin to warm up to and respect Bob as they grow to realize that he is a man of good character.

Objectionable Content

Like so many other mainstream films, “The Spy Next Door” subtly reinforces and normalizes divorce in our modern culture. The family portrayed in this film has been hurt and torn apart by divorce and a cheating father. The Lord’s name is profaned approximately 2 times during the film, but otherwise the film is free of profanities. Throughout the film, a female Russian terrorist can be seen in several tight, cleavage bearing outfits.

Farren (Madeline Carrol), the oldest girl, has a very rebellious attitude and says several times throughout the movie that she “hates this family.” She also flirts with and tries to gain the attention of a much older college-age boy, but Bob puts a stop to this. Farren’s rebellion extends to her fashion choices, as she attempts to go to school in several miniskirts and a midriff baring top, however Gillian and Bob deem them inappropriate and tell her to find something more modest to wear.

Gillian’s son, Ian lies to his friends in an effort to make himself seem cool, but Bob tells him that he shouldn’t lie to his friends to gain popularity. In one scene, Ian ends up in the principal’s office for lying to his classmates. Ian brags to his friends that he spent New Year’s Eve at the Playboy mansion and when the principal asks him about this lie he says, “Pay per view, hi-def, I felt like I was there.” Later in the movie, Ian tells a girl from Farren’s gymnastics class that she has a nice body. These inappropriate jokes, as well as Ian’s character’s interest in girls were played for laughs but they fell flat, and had no business being in a children’s movie. There was a moderate amount of bloodless, martial arts style violence throughout the film, which may be of concern to some parents.

Parents should also be aware that a blooper reel immediately follows the film’s conclusion, and while entertaining and funny contains several profanities, such as the f-word and sh** that are bleeped out, but this blooper reel can easily be avoided if parents and their children leave immediately after the movie ends.

Summary

While there are some moral lessons that young viewers and their parent’s can take away from the “The Spy Next Door,” these lessons were not explored in any depth and were couched in an only mildly entertaining slapstick comedy that suffers from a clichéd plot and wooden acting.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I saw “The Spy Next Door” yesterday and enjoyed it very much. Jackie Chan is hilarious. There’s virtually no swearing in the film (an appropriate use of “Hell,” when the villain calls jail “Prisoner’s Hell”) and the usual martial arts-style violence you’d expect from a Jackie Chan movie (only less violent; it was more like “Around The World In 80 Days”). There’s a reference to a James Bond movie, which worked well in the movie.

The reason for the PG rating is the martial arts-style violence (which is virtually bloodless, with the exception of one scene where blood is seen on a bad guy’s broken nose). The children are cute, especially the 4 year old. Amber Valetta is terrific as the mother. Some have compared this to “The Pacifier,” but this movie was so much better than that misfire (sorry, Walt Disney Pictures). I recommend this movie. Mild Caution: The usual out-takes at the end of the movie, while hilarious, have some language (which has been bleeped out, of course).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—D, age 23 (USA)
Positive—Our family went to see this film this past weekend and really enjoyed. Yes, the storyline included a divorce situation, but it also showed how a divorce negatively effects the children in a family. The mother in the movie puts her children first. Jackie Chan’s character, Bob, is very respectful of the family and wants what is best for them. The movie does talk about how lying is never appropriate and shows what happens when you do lie (you always get caught).

The only parts that made me cringe were some of the comments made by the teenage daughter at the beginning of the movie, she is very disrespectful towards her mother and Bob.

Overall, a fun movie to watch—my kids really enjoyed the action and storyline. Is it Oscar material? No. But it was a relatively clean family-friendly movie. I would not recommend it for very young children because some of the action scenes are very intense, but for older children, I would say 5th grade and up, a fun movie. Not a Christian movie, but still fun to watch and not offensive. I can say our family did watch the out-takes at the end of the movie and I didn’t notice any objectionable language, mentioned in the preview. Any objectionable language was bleeped or deleted. The out-takes were very funny and I didn’t see any harm in watching them.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Leslie G, age 45 (USA)
Positive—“The Spy Next Door” is a wonderful comedy. The martial arts, while present, is very comical and light-hearted and slapsticky, much like “Home Alone.” It was also wonderful to see a film where you are not bombarded with profanity. If you want a good, fun film go see it. Lots of fun! There are also some moments that parents and youth pastors could use in teaching young people about the struggles of divorce and family.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jonathan Moss, age 37 (USA)
Positive—This movie looked to be made as a somewhat corny slapstick and was. With that in mind, my wife, children and I loved it. I don’t find Jackie Chan to be the best actor and his language is hard to understand, but he’s adorable as any character he plays. Both he and his girlfriend showed good judgment in the movie by insisting that the daughter wear more appropriate clothing. The attitude of the children was horrible and shouldn’t have been allowed, but it was a broken family and sometimes attitudes get skewed. Lies, devious behavior and disrespect were a huge part of the film. I have to remind my children that while we laugh at disrespectful behavior in movies, it is very hurtful and isn’t funny in real life. I hate to have to explain that. But inevitably they will do it to be funny if I don’t.

Lessons about honesty and kindness were mentioned. As a spy however, Chan’s character, lived a lie. Something that spies must do I suppose. The mother became angry with Chan for involving her children in a dangerous mission, but she overreacted and as is usual when you want irrational responses, Chan, didn’t explain his position well. I get uncomfortable around plots that center around misunderstanding like that. It’s weak. Intelligent People listen better and explain better than that in real life. Overall, a great movie. No bad language that I can remember, no sexual themes, but amazing special effects in fight scenes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Chris Ransom, age 43 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This film was pretty much the typical fare in the “family comedy” genre. It was directed by the same man who brought us “Beethoven” and “Jingle All The Way,” so if you’re looking for his style of story you might refer to those films. The movie was entertaining throughout, though it did strongly portray an American family who is weak rebellious. My wife and I do not have children, but if that were the case, I would have some cautions about my kids hearing the screen kids yell about hating their family. For sure, parents that do take their children need to explain how serious the offense of disobeying parents is mentioned in the Bible.

The action was fun and it is good that those who have families can see a Jackie Chan action film without too major moral issues that surround many of his films. In all, there is nothing too impressive about the film, and it will soon be one of those cheap DVDs that you can buy for a song.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Andy V., age 22 (USA)
Neutral—I went to see “The Spy Next Door” with my friend. I enjoy going to a Jackie Chan movie from time to time, and I thought this movie would be a good choice because it had an all-star cast which included Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez.

First off, I would like to say that for an action movie, especially one that starred Jackie Chan, there was not a lot of “action” to it—period. Yes, there was the occasional fight scene but most of the movie was spent watching Bob interact with the children. I was expecting more action in this film, and my expectations were sadly met with disappointment. This film had potential.

Secondly, there were some inappropriate moments in this movie that some parents may not want their young children viewing. George Lopez’s character tells Bob and Billy Ray Cyrus' characters that one of the things that spying is about is “peeing in a bottle.” As the reviewer stated the oldest girl wore an inappropriate outfit (luckily disapproved by both Bob and Jillian). There was a scene of bullying that occurred, a kiss that occurred between Bob and Jillian, and talk of illegal downloading off the Internet by Ian (one of the children).

Language includes h*ll and, as the reviewer also stated, two occasions of the Lord’s name taken in vain.

However, despite the many flaws that existed in this movie, the movie did have a message behind it, even though it may have very well been a hidden message. The message behind this movie, that I came to realize, is to, as the reviewer stated, not to judge others based on appearances. Jesus states, in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” At first the children are hesitant and take advantage of Bob’s hospitality and good will, but they come to the realization that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, but on what’s the inside.

So in a nutshell, I would have to advise everyone to avoid this movie. Although the acting was fine, the movie still lacked substance. Hollywood, keep trying.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Alex, age 19 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I’m sad to say that I that my family will not be able to watch this film again. It was very funny and I was actually impressed that when the daughter tried to go out of the house in a mini-skirt the adults helped her to see it was morally wrong. I thought to myself “This movie is actually making a bold statement about having good morals” but to my disappointment they made a bold statement the other way when the son lies to his friends about staying the night at the Playboy Mansion. Then he tells the principal that pay per view high def made him feel like he was there. It was very inappropriate for a family movie and thankfully much of the inappropriateness went over my 6 year old daughters head. I wish that movies like this could really exist without having to ruin it with distastefulness. I hope the writer’s of this movie realize we are all accountable to Christ for what we teach children.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tonya, age 36 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I went to go see “The Spy Next Door,” and I found that it was a nice family/kid movie; it was a nice comedy. I enjoyed it. Billy Ray Cyrus plays in it, and he wouldn’t play in a that was offensive or bad. Jackie Chan is a very funny actor, and the little 4 year old girl is very cute. Although the boy was always lying, it was a good film. I would recommend this to families.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jade D.C., age 10 (Canada)
Positive—I think this movie was pretty funny and clean, for today’s standards. There are a few parts they could’ve left out, i.e., Ian’s reference to Playboy Mansion. The movie was pretty action-filled, no blood or very graphical scenes. It was humorous, and my younger sisters liked it, as well as my parents. Overall, I give it a 4.5/5
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jon Borichef, age 14 (USA)
Neutral—I’m not entirely sure if I should give this a positive or negative. So I chose neutral, for I am in the middle. For starters, this film had some fun moments. It was a good family film. But the negative was that there was most inappropriate stuff in here. Such as the boy saying he would stay the night at the Playboy Mansion—now that was inappropriate, especially for a kids” film!

Also, the script was terrible, and the action was stiff, and, wooden. I would say skip it if you can’t handle some of the objectionable humour. But if you think you can, and you think you’ll like it, then watch it on DVD, like I did.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Andre, age 15 (Canada)