They are everywhere in Washington D.C. On every street corner, in every square, crowding around outside museums, picking through trashcans. I am of course talking about pigeons and though they seem to inhabit every single city in the world, this holiday they are taking over movie screens in the new animated film Spies in Disguise. Despite classic toilet humor and an insane plot involving a spy being turned into a pigeon, the film works best when its complex message, people are more than just good and bad, gets to shine through.
Lance Sterling (Will Smith), the greatest spy in the world, has it all. He’s on the top of his profession, taking all the glory and action that comes with it. He’s eager to fight and beat anyone who stands against him, labeling any adversary as “the bad guy.” When Lance’s arrogance finally gets the best of him and is turned against his own agency and government at the bionic hand of Ben Mendelsohn’s Killian, Lance is forced to accept the help of gadget guy Walter Beckett (Tom Holland), a young man who believes there’s good in everyone and everyone deserves a hug. Instead of creating tech that will blow bad guys out of the water, Walter is known for creating gentler gadgets, including a pigeon serum that allows the drinker to turn into a pigeon. With the government beating down his door, Lance accidentally drinks the serum, propelling himself, as a pigeon, and Walter around the globe to clear Lance’s name and save the world.
The premise of this movie is ridiculous. The comedy in this movie is over the top, borderline toilet humor. There’s a scene with a giant fat samurai-looking arms dealer whose body is liquified that I could have done without. However, there are some genuine sincere and sweet moments interspersed throughout the film. Some of this stems from Holland’s innocent yet endearing vocal performance, providing enough emotional weight to get invested into the character’s storyline. Do we ever find out why this kid is obsessed with pigeons? No, not really but that doesn’t really matter. As the heart of the film, he pushes this idea that the “bad guys” are still human with feelings and thoughts and families, a message that doesn’t get stressed too often in children’s media.
If you are a parent and are forced to watch something over the holiday, this isn’t your worst bet. It’s original with a much-needed message that kids can easily pick up on.
3 out of 5