Lionsgate Pictures, courtesy
January 13, 2010
OK FOR MOST KIDS 8 AND OLDER
A sorry absence of charm and humor, plus a torturously contrived plot make The Spy Next Door a painful experience for adults. Kids between 8 and 12 may get some enjoyment from its mix of slapstick and derring-do, nonetheless.
Jackie Chan plays Bob Ho, a secret agent on loan from China to the U.S. government. (This alone will give grown-ups pause.) When he's not foiling Russian criminals, Bob lives as a bespectacled milquetoast, across the street from a beautiful single mom Gillian (Amber Valletta). Gillian and Bob have been dating and they'd like to marry, but her children Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley) and little Nora (Alina Foley) think he's a loser. When Gillian must leave to visit her ailing father, Bob offers to watch the kids. When the Russian criminal he catches in the film's prologue escapes, Bob, who just retired from spying, is called back.
There are numerous martial-arts stunts and fights with blades and fists. The kids are of course put in danger. The film's young actors lack the skill to make their stilted lines sound natural, and the boy is forced to use mild sexual innuendo in a way that doesn't suit his preteen age. There is rare, mild profanity.