Main cast: Will Smith (Lance Sterling), Tom Holland (Walter Beckett), Rashida Jones (Marcy Kappel), Ben Mendelsohn (Killian), Reba McEntire (Joy Jenkins), Rachel Brosnahan (Wendy Beckett), Karen Gillan (Eyes), DJ Khaled (Ears), and Masi Oka (Katsu Kimura)
Directors: Troy Quane and Nick Bruno
Spies in Disguise has an aesthetics that distracts me considerably. Every character here has very thin, reedy legs regardless of age or sex, and throughout this movie I keep feeling vaguely bothered that the supposedly best spy in the world, Lance Sterling, seems to be suffering from a wasting disease that affects his lower extremities. Also, I’m befuddled as to how most of the characters here resemble their voice actors somewhat, but they have drawn Reba McEntire’s character to look more like Helen Mirren. Was poor Ms McEntire a second choice, after Ms Mirren was unavailable and it was too late to redraw the character?
This one sees Will Smith being Will Smith pretending to be Lance Sterling, while Tom Holland is channeling Peter Parker only with extra sociopathy. Lance is the obnoxious, vain, loudmouth spy who disobeys orders and generally acts before he thinks. He likes explosive things, which puts him at odd with the resident Q, Walter Beckett, who wants Lance to use devices that pacify, sedate, or incapacitate instead in the name of “there has to be a better way”. Lance dismisses his latest invention – a serum that Walter claims will make him invisible – and has that kid fired, only to revise his opinion when he is framed for a crime – likely by his nemesis, the terrorist boss Killian – and he needs a way to be, yes, invisible. He breaks into Walter’s home – that guy has a lab in his apartment, which I’m sure his neighbors will be thrilled to find out about – and drinks the serum.
Thing is, when Walter talks about being invisible, he means turning Lance into something that will not be noticed by people around him. In other words, the serum will turn Lance into a pigeon, and oops. Even better, Walter has not begun working on a means to reverse the transformation yet. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Lance…
The best thing I can say about this one is that it is a pleasant and mildly entertaining kind of generic. There is nothing smart, subversive, or satirical here to appeal to anyone who isn’t going to be automatically enamored of the colors and explosions and slapstick comedy that are present in abundance. Sure, Lance learns a bit of humility by the end, but he’s on the whole an obnoxious and smug character who can do anything and everything – so long as he’s not a pigeon – hence there is never a shadow of doubt that he is going to waltz through the whole thing like taking a walk in the park. Walter is written in a bipolar manner: he is supposed to be an idealistic nerd, but he also relishes the sight of Lance in pain as it’s all part of science, and he lacks any empathy for his unwilling, unwitting test subjects. This guy is a mad scientist, but the scriptwriters don’t dare to fully take that character down that route, hence there is constant pedaling and backpedaling when it comes to this character.
Seriously, though, there isn’t much here aside from explosions, special effects, and slapstick humor. The story itself is forgettable, and the characters are basically the voice actors lazily rehashing the characters they are well known for, or typecast if you want to mean. Good luck trying to remember anything about this one a few weeks down the road!