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Spies in Disguise – Movie Review

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Spies in Disguise – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Since its inception, Blue Sky Studios has prided itself in telling creative stories packed with great comedic gags. There is also a heart hidden underneath their films that makes them extra special. Spies in Disguise continues their run of quality animated films by taking its strange premise and running with it. Directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane have fun with the film, mixing a wacky cartoon plot with the filmmaking techniques you might see in a James Bond movie. The pairing of a cocky spy with a pacifist inventor also allows for plenty of great scenes between the two as helped by their voice actors.

The movie takes full advantage of the spy movie tropes it’s playing with, but Spies in Disguise doesn’t feel like a parody. The action and violence isn’t that different from the sort seen in a Bond picture, with Bruno and Quane not flinching in showing the evil deeds of the villains and the destruction caused by Agent Lance Sterling. There is plenty of invention in the action sequences as the filmmakers play around with the camera and make superb use of their locations. However, there is also a theme on the potential consequences of a spy’s “license to kill” that proves the film has more on its mind than just showing neat gadgets.

A lot of fun is had with Walter Beckett’s inventions, though. The ones the filmmakers come up with provide a lot of the movie’s humour as well as the main inciting incident. Spies in Disguise effectively introduces us to the main participants and rather quickly turns Sterling into a pigeon. So many hilarious sight gags are created out of this simple idea, with the animators putting Sterling into all sort of funny positions. Many of the physical jokes hit, as he struggles with this predicament. However, the film also finds clever ways for him to take advantage of a pigeon’s abilities. Pigeons are already funny birds, but Spies in Disguise somehow finds a way of making them even more amusing.

The odd couple pairing of Sterling and Beckett is well-handled, with the movie successfully contrasting the former’s “ask questions later” approach to the latter’s more kind-hearted nature. The bond that forms between them feels natural and is properly developed. Will Smith and Tom Holland have definitely been cast based on what they’ve brought to prior roles, but they perfectly fit their characters. Other characters, like a group of pigeons that aide the heroes on their journey, also do the job of fleshing out the world. A suspicious internal affairs agent, voiced by Rashida Jones, is able to be written in a way where you understand her point-of-view and the main baddie is almost like a modern-day update of Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget.

Spies in Disguise has the sort of storyline that is perfectly suited to animation, especially when paired with the inventive minds at Blue Sky Studios. The screenplay is sharp and funny and is able to build the necessary stakes, even with a lead who has been transformed into a pigeon. A movie playing with spy movie tropes isn’t unusual, but Nick Bruno and Troy Quane embrace the genre, right down to making an awesome opening title sequence. The film moves at a good pace and most importantly, centers on two protagonists with a lot of personality. The film embraces a different way of saving the day that sets it apart from other spy flicks, so the whole animal angle isn’t the only aspect unique to Spies in Disguise. Blue Sky Studios is one of the best modern animation studios and this film is further proof of the creativity coming out of the home of Scrat.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison