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You’ve seen the ads all year for the Will Smith/Tom Holland-starring animated film Spies In Disguise, and if you’re anything like me, you probably weren’t expecting much from this movie. If I’m being honest, the way the film was advertised made this look like yet another simple “Kids’ Movie,” with the prerequisite humor that keeps the young ones entertained, but provides nothing for an adult audience.

Having now seen the film, it’s a good time to admit I was totally wrong in my initial assessment, as Spies In Disguise not only plays closer to the tween market when it comes its humor, there are plenty of homages and plot points for adults to pick over as they too laugh at the surprisingly funny and heartfelt material on display.

Spies In Disguise plays as a standard James Bond style adventure, if the Bond franchise took place in a heightened sci-fi reality where anything was possible. And anything is up in the air, as super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) accidentally turns himself into a pigeon, thanks to an invention courtesy of the recently double fired Walter Beckett (Tom Holland.)

As an internal affairs investigation heats up surrounding accusations that Lance is a traitor, a villainous plot is being hatched by the diabolical Killian (Ben Mendelsohn.) With every move this new bird and boy team make, they’ll have to outwit not only their own compatriots (Rashida Jones, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled,) but also the villains they’re attempting to thwart.

The level of humor, for both kids and adults, is Spies In Disguise’s biggest surprise.

After enduring trailers of what looked a comedy relying on pop culture references and simple humor, it turns out that Spies In Disguise is a genuinely laughable comedy in the best way possible. Part of that comes from the easy chemistry and comedic timing that both Will Smith and Tom Holland have under their respective belts.

Will Smith’s cocky self-assured nature, as well as his ability to threaten and freak out on a partner on cue, makes his Lance Sterling a fun character to watch. With Sterling trying to learn the ropes of what being a bird is all about, Smith gets to show off that charm in prime form throughout Spies In Disguise.

However, that’s only half of the fun, as Tom Holland’s time as Peter Parker prepared him rather nicely for Walter’s science-driven persona. Though, unlike Holland’s more prolific role, his Spies In Disguise lead is more of a thinker than a doer, which makes for an interesting personal journey in directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane’s late season thrill ride.

Spies In Disguise cribs from some very familiar material, and honors the sources while doing its’ own thing.

There are a number of spy movies you could cite when running through Spies In Disguise’s plot, as Mission: Impossible, Skyfall and countless other entries in both series those films come from are definitely influences.

But rather than ripping them off wholesale, this movie actually crafts a thoughtful narrative that will make parent and child both think, as the ethics of violence are scrutinized with a more nuanced approach than in either Ethan Hunt or James Bond’s adventures.

Even Ben Mendelsohn’s villain, Killian, is grounded in his purpose and mission, with a fleet of drones being the Macguffin his baddie chooses to unfurl the ultimate revenge with. His personal motivations make for some heavy subject matter, which perfectly balances Spies In Disguise’s more action-packed, comedy-fueled proceedings.

If you’re looking for the perfect gateway for kids to get into spy movies, Spies In Disguise is now your best option possible.

If you've been looking for the right film to test your children’s reaction to the spy cinema waters, this is just the picture you’ve been looking for. With fast-paced action, light and witty comedy, and some weighty drama added into the recipe, Spies In Disguise is a high flying cocktail of family friendly fun.

It’s nice to find a film that’s ready to surprise audiences in the last moments of the old year, as well as into the first glimpses of the next year to come. So if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, mixed with enough familiar themes to keep you invested, take Spies In Disguise under your wing.

7 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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