Old 01-22-2010, 08:04 PM
Brian Levant's The Spy Next Door

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:


The Spy Next Door (2010)

One has to wonder what Jackie Chan was thinking when he signed onto "The Spy Next Door." We can assume he at least got to read the screenplay before hand and that he realized it had pretty much zero plot, and was actually just a string of action sequences tied together by some very annoying characters. Yet, he still accepted the role.

Chan plays Bob Ho, a spy on loan to the CIA from Chinese Intelligence. His last assignment before retiring was to stop a group of Russians from destroying the world's oil supply, but after the main villain is captured, he escapes almost immediately and tries again. Meanwhile, Bob is involved in a relationship with his next door neighbor, Gillian (Amber Valletta), who has three kids, Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley), and Nora (Alina Foley). His plan is to retire from his job so that he can marry Gillian, but that has to be put on hold when the Russians come after him.

When people think of Jackie Chan, they tend to think of his amazing martial arts work in films that at least have a half-baked plot, which at least gives the actions scenes some purpose. Here, they offer nothing more than a wake-up call for the audience, who have patiently sat there, waiting for the plot to start.

It's hard to imagine that kids, at whom the film is aimed, would even find this entertaining. They may be able to identify with some of the shallow emotions the kids try to give off, but other than that, there just isn't anything here that shows why this film should have been made in the first place. Speaking of the kids, this is some of the worst child-acting you will ever find on the big screen, or on any screen for that matter.

At the least, the fight scenes are well-choreographed, though not as thrilling as those you would find in a good Jackie Chan movie. As I said earlier, this is pretty much what makes up the movie, but the audience is never given a reason to care about who wins these fights, making them tiresome as they drag on and on.

A main reason that we never come to care about the characters is that they are incredibly two-dimensional and are never filled out. This is due not only to the lousy acting, but because of the terrible script by Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer, and Gregory Poirier. It feels like they just took the simplest idea they could think of and ran with it, forgetting to fill in any details that would engage the audience.

In the rare instances where there aren't fight scenes taking place, we are treated to some awful scenes of Bob trying to get Gillian's kids to like him, which, of course, eventually turn into scenes where they come to care about him. All of it simply feels forced and contrived. There is no true emotion to be found among these characters. When it tries to present itself as a comedy, it is simply not funny. It says a lot when the funniest parts are in the gag reel at the end.

Just making it through these seemingly-stretched 90 minutes was an ordeal, similar to that chipmunk movie from a few weeks ago. Hopefully Jackie Chan will learn from this mistake and return to films that actually have some kind of plot. I never thought the "Rush Hour" films would look so good. 1.5/4 stars.
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