Cast: Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley, Magnus Scheving, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez, Alina Foley
Director: Brian Levant
Release Date: July 31, 2010, 10:46 am
Rating: PG for (sequences of action violence and some mild rude humor)
Run Time: 01h:34m:18s
ìI have to tell you about my job. This might shock you, but you should know everything before this relationship goes further.î - Bob Ho (Jackie Chan)
Movie Grade: C-
DVD Grade: B
As a former fan of Jackie Chan, itís been difficult to adjust to the ìnew,î family-friendly Jackie Chan. Not that Jackieís old persona involved the murdering of innocent women and children in his movies, but at least his old, Chinese martial arts films involved characters who were in adult-themed storylines and peril. Now, like nearly every major Hollywood action star before him (feel free to put all of the blame on Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kindergarten Cop), Chan has gone to the dark side, which is actually the lightest side an actor can go to: that dreaded realm knows as the family film. Not only did he recently appear in the reimagining/reboot/regurgitation that was The Karate Kid, but earlier in 2010, he starred in the kid-centric fluff piece, The Spy Next Door. While adults should steer clear if they can, kids can now enjoy this tepidly-received (critically and at the box office) ìactionî vehicle in one nice Blu-ray/DVD combo package from Lionsgate.
Chan plays retired CIA agent Bob Ho, who has just traded in his action-packed career for a potentially boring family life with his girlfriend, Gillian (Amber Valletta), and her three kids, Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley), and Nora (Alina Foley). Bob has his work cut out for him, though, as Gillianís kids could care less about him, even going so far as to attempt to avoid him at all costs. In the middle of his family adjustment problems, Bob is contacted by his ex-partner, Colton James (Billy Ray Cyrus), who asks him to help decrypt a code that could be related to the prison escape of Russian criminal mastermind, Poldark (Magnus Scheving). An accidental file transfer puts Bob and his family in imminent danger, but if he can save them from Poldark, he might also save his chances at total acceptance, and maybe even love, from his new family.
Ok, so thereís no reason to give any sort of false pretenses that The Spy Next Door is a good movie, because it flat out isnít. However, as a means of keeping your kids happy while you arenít subjected to a worse movie, itís not a bad flick. Despite some of the worst action sequences of Chanís career, thereís enough rock-em, sock-em stuff here to keep the adults and kids in the room interested. If only director Brian Levant (Beethoven, Jingle All the Way) knows his way around a family-oriented flick or two, but he has a hard time staging anything appealing to adults during this filmís non-action sequences. Still, while I found my mind wandering during those scenes, I was dialed right back in to what was happening on screen when Chan was back to kicking bad guysí butts.
The most glaring problem is with the supporting cast. While Billy Ray Cyrus is as horrible here as I expected, I was a little more disappointed at how bad George Lopez was as the CIA director. By no stretch of the imagination is Lopez a ìgreatî comedian, but his semi-recent, inspired turn as a boozing, womanizing, drug-addicted mayor in Reno 911!, gave me at least some hope that he might bring at least a hint of edginess to this fluffy material. Unfortunately, he does nothing of the sort here, and turns his horribly-written dialogue into far worse scenes than they needed to be. Lopez is quickly becoming a go-to guy for family movies, but hereís hoping his upcoming voice work in The Smurfs is much better than his live action work here.
Seasoned Jackie Chan veterans will have a number of complaints with the aforementioned poorly-executed action sequences (including abnormally weak wire-work), but at least they look very impressive on Lionsgateís Blu-ray disc. The overall video quality is quite impressive, yet not without a few issues. The color scheme is bright, vivid and family-friendly throughout but an overabundance of grain and poorly handled contrast and black levels drag the transfer down a bit. The lossless audio track fares far better, though, with a strong bass presence adding nice punch to the action sequences. The best extra this package boasts is the inclusion of the feature on a separate, standard DVD. Other than that, we get a couple of featurettes and an entertaining, Chan-centric blooper reel.
Chuck Aliaga July 31, 2010, 10:46 am