Spy Next Door, The (UK - BD RB)
If Marcus had Jackie Chan living next door, the movie would have been better
Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) is a Chinese super-spy on loan to the CIA who decides to give up his career in espionage to settle down with his next-door neighbour and girlfriend, Gillian (Amber Valletta). All he has to do is win over her three kids and his new life can begin. *Record scratches* But first Bob has to sort out the most wanted Russian terrorist in America who is tracking him down after one of Gillian’s kids downloaded a top secret formula on his Ipod.
The idea for The Spy Next Door is a whole lot better than the final product. After all you have Jackie Chan doing his thing and in an arena that introduces him to a whole new generation of kids. What could go wrong? Sadly this whole affair is just so mundane and lifeless it feels like one massive missed opportunity.
It doesn’t help that it’s one of the worst screenplays of the year, relying on spelling out the situations, the motivations and the odds at any and all opportunity. There’s also an over spilling of bad performances from pretty much the entire cast (outside of Jackie, who carries off charming with ease) and a feeling that this whole project has been made on the set of some TV sitcom with its box fresh appearance and glossy lighting.
I know, I know I sound like an old man, but seriously, in a world where family movies don’t have to be aimed at the lowest common detonator anymore it would have been nice to see Jackie Chan in a movie that really got to celebrate his iconic status. If this movie was made with similar sensibilities to something like School of Rock and they’d ditched the weak gags, the horrid comic book villains and the cookie cutter approach to ‘wouldn’t it be funny if Jackie Chan lived next door to you?’ this really could have been something special. Unfortunately beside a couple of choice Jackie moments and another likable performance from him, The Spy Next Door just feels totally out of date in the realms of family movies and utterly forgettable because of it.
This movie is set at Halloween and because of this the autumn/winter colour palette is devoid of anything lit with bright sunshine. This makes for a fairly bland looking movie and with a slightly above average level of grain, everything can look a little dark and shows off the sitcom style lighting within the interior scenes.
Skin tones sometimes suffer from being a little too orange with no real detail to speak of and other than some deep blacks in places, the colour scheme is all a little boring with plenty of beige, creams and suburban blandness (which I guess is there to sell the point of a spy next door in any house, on any street).
The Spy Next Door isn’t a bad transfer, but it’s not that great either. When compared to other family movies out there it’s trailing behind quite considerably and really there were no show off moments on the whole disc.
With the majority of the audio sitting in the fronts with the crisp clear dialogue, the only thing left for the rears to get involved with is horrifically over the top spy music and the bass filled shrill of the cuts to the bad guys.
Oh course there’s the odd impact from the fight scenes, but as it’s a kids movie these are pretty toned down from what martial arts fans will be used to so don’t expect too much from this rather lifeless track.
Moving through the trailer (01:44 SD) we get to the good stuff ‘Jackie Chan: Stunt Master & Mentor' (09:48 SD), which has the cast talking up Jackie’s skills and his performance.
‘Adventures in Acting With The Kids of The Spy Next Door’ (10:42 SD) is a sit down chat with the kids of the movie in what seems to be for a TV special or between show promotional piece.
Next there’s the ‘Blooper Reels’ (03:08 SD), which is taken from the credits at the end of the movie.
Lastly there’s a trailer reel when the discs boots up. Igor, Fly Me to the Moon and a five minute Butlins advert. Seriously. And you can’t skip it—only scan it. There’s also one for galaxy chocolate. Please disc makers, can we just stick to movie stuff in the trailers?
The Spy Next Door is another missed opportunity to add to Jackie Chan’s US film career. It would seem that for every Rush Hour we get something weak like The Jacket. With a genuinely great Jackie Chan movie released this year being the Karate Kid remake (seriously, he’s so great in that) we get ourselves Spy Next Door to take the sheen off.
Smaller kids might eat this up a little bit more than older ones, but mums and dads might struggle a bit with the one note approach to the idea of having Jackie Chan living next door. It’s not a total waste of time but it got pretty close to feeling it in the middle.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 2nd August 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Extras: Featurettes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Brian Levant
Cast: Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy and Family
Length: 94 minutes
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