Does anyone else miss the days of Rumble in the Bronx? Police Story? You know, when Jackie Chan could, or was, allowed to still do stunts? I thought so. Unfortunately, those days are long since passed, and now Jackie Chan movies are just lame hollow shells of something that can never be again.
You can't really blame Jackie for doing a kid's movie like The Spy Next Door, his latest American-made film that is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. After all, he's getting older but still enjoys making movies, even if his fighting skills can no longer cover up his much-to-be-desired acting skills. And besides, the same approach has helped extend the careers of Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson in the past.
The Spy Next Door has a plot that, practically, is as simple as the title suggests. Next door neighbor Bob (Chan) agrees to watch his girlfriend's three kids for the weekend in hope that he'll win their approval. They can't stand him because they think he's just a dorky pen salesman, but in reality he's an undercover spy. Of course, his Russian adversaries eventually come looking for him and he has to save his future family from certain death.
The plot is pretty inane, but then again it's no more so than many of Jackie's best movies. Unfortunately, the movie is made for kids, and director Brian Levant apparently thinks that kids have extremely low standards. The script is awful and is painfully unfunny, primarily thanks to incredibly bad performances by Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez. They alone make you question how seriously - even for a kid's movie - Levant took the production of the movie.
The action isn't bad for a PG-rated film such as this, but you would think kids would enjoy a higher level of Jackie's antics, even if they don't involve massive stunts. But even Jackie's hand-to-hand stunts lack originality, and to lighten the mood Levant ruins nearly every action sequence with cheesy, playful music.
Despite its massive shortcomings, The Spy Next Door does survive on Jackie's presence, as watered down as it is. As bad as most of the supporting cast is, the child actors do an adequate job and their chemistry with Jackie is sound. Still, compared to other movies like this (say, The Pacifier or The Game Plan), the jokes and comic timing of the leads are off kilter more often than not.
The Spy Next Door feels like a cheap cash grab, which it is, but the family film is mildly enjoyable at times. Jackie is able to bring some energy to what otherwise is a flat production, though there are certainly more entertaining movies for kids out there. Frankly, considering most Jackie Chan movies are not very dark to begin with, most kids would likely find some of his classics funnier and more entertaining than this one. Nonetheless, The Spy Next Door is at least better than Jackie's other recent American productions, though being better than The Tuxedo doesn't say a whole lot.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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