At 55 years old, Jackie Chan is definitely in need of a career transition. Not only is he partially incapable of performing the stunts that made him famous in the 80s, but watching him try has become uncomfortable; you worry about hip and back problems in a man who used to convince you he could fly.
The infinitely likable Chan has been changing gears slowly with action comedies for a decade now, and while many were disasters-- The Tuxedo, Around the World in 80 Days-- I doubt any were as bad as the utterly inept The Spy Next Door. Saddled with an obvious script, hammy child actors and a litany of tired jokes, Chan seems somewhat defeated at the center of the whole thing, performing a stunt or two for the camera and giving the goofy reaction shot on cue, but looking as if he'd rather make Rush Hour 4.
Given that the role of Bob Ho was clearly written for Chan, it's unclear why they've paired him with Amber Valletta-- an honest-to-God supermodel-- as a love interest. She's Gillian, the woman next door raising three kids on her own, and in Bob she sees an honest, hardworking pen importer who will lead a quiet life alongside her. Of course, what he hasn't told her over several months of dating is that he actually works for a secret spy organization that, for reasons unknown, includes the likes of George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus in its ranks. Just when Bob's about to admit to his secret life, a Russian baddie is coming to town and it's up to Bob to stop him.
Of course, that's exactly when Gillian has to leave town and trust Bob to care for her three kids, each more obnoxious and meaner to Bob than the last. Eldest Farren (Madeline Carroll) is heinous to everyone because Gillian's only her stepmom, middle child Ian (Will Shadley) is a geek with a penchant for big words, and little Nora (Alina Foley) is basically just a child actor, shrill and rambunctious and constantly mugging toward the camera. Obviously Bob's job saving the world and his duty to the kids will come together in a third-act climactic fight, but in the meantime he's forced to help the kids through their pedestrian problems. The one good gag out of all of this, using spy tools to get the housework done, comes so long after you were ready for it that it's not even funny anymore.
Even the action scenes, which are the only possible lure for audiences of any age to see this, are filmed so incoherently by director Brian Levant that they feel as lifeless as everything else on the screen. From the overbearing score to the pauses for jokes to the complete waste of Chan's comedic timing, everything about the movie is sub-sitcom level. The Spy Next Door is that rare comedy that doesn't just insult the intelligence of the audience unlucky enough to see it, but abuses the performers onscreen as well. Avoid at all costs.
Reviewed By: Katey Rich