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MOVIE REVIEW

Spies in Disguise

also known as “Ajanlar İş Başında,” “Armados em Espiões Diep Vien An Danh,” “El Ataque de Espias,” “Espías a escondidas,” “Espias Al Descubierto,” “Espías con disfraz,” See more »
MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for action, violence, and rude humor.

Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens
Genre:
Animation Spy Action Adventure Comedy 3D IMAX
Length:
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
December 25, 2019 (wide release)
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Spies in the Bible

Young man being called “weird” by others

Importance of teamwork

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Featuring: Will SmithLance Sterling (voice)
Tom HollandWalter Beckett (voice)
Ben MendelsohnKillian (voice)
Rashida JonesMarcy Kappel (voice)
Karen GillanEyes (voice)
Rachel BrosnahanWendy Beckett (voice)
Reba McEntireJoy Jenkins (voice)
See all »
Director: Nick Bruno
Troy Quane
Producer: Blue Sky Studios
Chernin Entertainment
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Trademark logo.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

The World Needs Weird

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Based on a novel called Pigeon Impossible, this latest Will Smith comedy-action animation for teens is built on an interesting concept and a lot of ridiculous fun, but from a Christian perspective it falls flat.

Lance Sterling (Will Smith), a super-impressive but recently disgraced spy, seeks out the help of teenage science genius Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) who can make Lance invisible. But little does Lance realize he will transform into a pigeon to do so! Shrunken, disoriented and frustrated, Lance’s only hope of freedom is to continue his covert investigation and stop bad guys from hurting a lot of people. His motto has always been: “Lance Sterling flies solo,” but now he finds that he cannot succeed unless he learns to work together with the flock of misfit pigeons who’ve adopted him, and the one who Lance thinks caused all the trouble: ‘Walter the Weirdo.’

Designed to be a very ‘cool’ movie, “Spies in Disguise” gives teen viewers what they want, but little that is clean or edifying. Scripting and action are smart—there is loads of color, tech, crime-fighting, cheek, sneakiness, cuteness, harshness and new insults which I’m sure we’ll soon be hearing in the classroom (sigh…). Highly expressive voices from the likes of Reba McEntire add to the ride. Visual focus is on each character, rather than settings of Washington, Japan and a hidden weapons facility in the North Sea.

The 3D animation is very well done—especially pigeons with their cheerful strutting and somehow-toothy grins—and cars. In fact, dozens of people, a whole “Promotional Content” section of the credits, have worked on the blatant and frequent embedded advertisements for Audi cars. So, while overall the production quality is high and clever, it is not necessarily GOOD, because it appears more concerned with economics than teens’ well-being. Also, some flashing sequences could pose issues for those vulnerable to seizures or migraines.

There are just a few positives to “Spies in Disguise”:

  • Its main theme seems to be that ‘flying solo’ isn’t the best way, and “together we can find a good way to defeat evil.” This involves using the strengths of all sorts of people, even those whom society would deem ‘weird.’ “You can do more by bringing people together than by blocking them out.” “Being in a flock helped you.”

  • Its depiction of evil is fairly accurate in that the villains have no hesitation about doing evil, and “Evil doesn’t care that you’re nice. I watch good people be taken every day.” This is a sad reality.

  • Walter is humble and anti-violence. Lance initially laughs at this but comes to respect it.

As you may be gathering, there are too many problems to discuss them all. Foremost in my mind is that “Spies in Disguise” makes violence look incredibly cool, like a video-game in places, and it is scary, focused on prideful role models, distasteful humor and contains unusually heavy product placements. These are an unhealthy diet for our young people.

But beyond the mix of face-value good and bad traits, we must consider the themes, messages and spiritual issues with “Spies in Disguise.” Obviously, the film is all about personality, action and cheap gags, rather than true character or deep transformation. Nevertheless, it is also about learning to work in a team and being willing to try doing things someone else’s way. This is an important but sometimes dismissed biblical principle.

So, what does God’s Word, the Bible, say about all this? It insists that all Christians are one family, body or flock, with Jesus as our caring leader (John 10:16; Acts 20:28; Romans 12; 1 Peter 5). He says that all our roles are important and that beyond everyone’s gifts and approaches, the ‘most excellent way’ is love—selfless, unconditional, agape love which teaches us to be humble and to care for others’ needs above our own (1 Corinthians 12-13). As such, let’s each remember to work with our ‘flock’ to defeat evil wherever it may be found, and to not think that we can ‘fly solo’ like a foolish, defenseless bird.

A worthwhile and relatively safe film?

Certainly not. Despite normally liking this genre, the main voice actors and the story concept, I struggled to enjoy “Spies in Disguise” at all. It is far too full of poor-taste joking, ugly attitudes, scary violence and nudity. It may even encourage teens towards bullying behaviors and bad language. It steps very close to the line of expletives and profanities.

Whether a parent, teen or anyone else, please do not waste your money on disappointing films like “Spies in Disguise.”

  • Violence: Heavy— • Large knives and swords • martial arts • kicks • brawling • electric shock • hard blow to head • head banged on a desk • heads bashed together • attack drones individual and swarming • half-robotic head • use of painful animal bites • slow-motion crashes • music-torture threatened • multiple crotch-hits • taser rods • harassment e.g. “just a nobody” and “weirdo” • a distressed man (innocent) is dropped off a cliff to his implied death • elderly woman’s hair is set on fire (unresolved) • scary pause with an implied death • enemy brutally steps on a teen’s head, face and chest • internal bleeding • realistic black eye and heavy facial bruising.
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderate— • Son of a… • Let me kick some a… • poop • butt • flatulence noises • rectal thermometer • discussion of birds&rdquo • waste-hole (cloaca), repeatedly • emphasis on a person’s excess weight • animals eat rubbish including a sticking plaster • regurgitation and vomiting sounds • vomit • male pigeon is squeezed so hard ‘he’ lays an egg • and a *BEEP* replaces an expletive, at one point.
  • Nudity: Moderate— • Upon transformation, nude man—feels own muscled chest, and is quickly given clothes • villain seen nude from behind, and bar to the waist in front
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate— • unknown beverages in a pub-like environment • martini • gases • paralysis • sleeping draught
  • Sex: Mild to Moderate— • “I like your boom boom, girl” and, “Let’s get freaky low/ Call me if you want to get freaky low” in song lyrics • “Fifty shades of yay” • man checks down his pants after a transformation • a male ‘becomes’ female when lays an egg
  • Profane language: Mild— • “He’s like god of the asphalt” • holy ship • jees
  • Occult: Minor— • Discussion of evil • tattoo images
  • Crime: • “We broke a bunch of laws, committed treason…” “It doesn’t matter. We kept all those people safe.”
  • Other: • Crooks are frequently seen gambling • dread music from the classic film ‘Jaws’ • idolatry when shaking a celebrity’s hand: “Never wash that hand again.”

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


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Neutral
Neutral—This movie was cute but had an exceedingly large amount of crude potty humor including animated nudity. The amount of crude humor was excessive for an animated “family” film so you may want to wait until it comes on TV and even then keep really young kids away.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Dr. David, age Over 40 (USA)
Negative
Negative—Children’s cartoons should be for children, and nudity should be taboo—especially aimed at kids. It appears as though they pushed the boundaries because they lacked substance. I can’t recommend this flick for any age.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Dennis, age 66 (USA)

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