The trickster behind “Ice Age” and “Rio” is trying their hand at it Spies in Disguise on an animated spy comedy in which a top agent becomes a pigeon. Is that positive and detached or, unfortunately, more rubbish? We reveal this in our review of the film.
Enemies become friends…
The plot summary
Super spy Lance Sterling (in the original Will Smith, in the dub Steven Gätjen) is pretty much the exact opposite of scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland/Jannik Schümann). Lance is cool, charming and skilled. Walter is clumsy, unpopular and awkward. What Walter lacks in many areas, he makes up for with inventiveness and intelligence – as well as an impressively peaceful disposition. When events take an unforeseen turn after one of Lance’s adventurous missions, Walter and Lance suddenly have to rely on each other despite all the opposites. And if this strange couple doesn’t learn to work as a team, the entire world is in danger…
Spies in Disguise Movie Meaning
It’s strange how often animators are drawn to the concept of a spy comedy. Among other things, there is the immensely popular, fast-paced Disney series “Kim Possible”, which recently received a live-action adaptation in the form of a TV film, as well as the two “The Incredibles” productions by Brad Bird, which primarily focus on the superhero genre comment, but aesthetically and in the construction of some action scenes they also refer to spy cinema. And then, of course, there was The Penguins of Madagascar , the turbulent 2014 DreamWorks Animation comedy in which the penguins from the Madagascar films are recruited as agents with a mix of luck, unconventional thinking and strange save the world through successful stubbornness.
Thank God Lance and Walter can rely on the help of pigeons around the world…
“The Penguins of Madagascar” definitely stands out from his studio’s work, as DreamWorks Animation usually relies more heavily on pop culture references and cheeky dialogue in primarily comedic films, rather than the pace and hustle and bustle of classic cartoons like “Looney Tunes” or “ Tom & Jerry” school, where movement and energy are the focus. Blue Sky Studios has continued to uphold this standard, as the favorite scenes of many “Ice Age” fans are the wordless passages surrounding the bustling saber-toothed squirrel Scrat, who is chasing after an acorn. In this respect, it makes sense that Blue Sky Studios is now moving into similar territory with “Spies in Disguise” as that of “The Penguins of Madagascar”. The parallels don’t just end with “An animated spy comedy in which birds play numerous central roles” – both films also feature a fast-paced chase through Venice, in which confusing plans and crazy gadgets provide fast-paced humor. But while “The Penguins of Madagascar” largely maintains its rapid pace and regularly lightens up the trick action with small, subtle absurdities (e.g. around nasty but ultra-cuddly octopuses), Spies in Disguise is immature in this respect.
Sometimes the film goes completely over the top and degenerates into overloaded, colorful chaos without any hand or foot, then there is a misdirection and “Spies in Disguise” radically slows down the pace in an attempt to stimulate the tear ducts – but this is due to the thin character drawing and the sedate dialogues go completely wrong in these serious moments. Likewise, the thematic thread of defensive conflict resolution in “Spies in Disguise” isn’t really well thought out, and the “two opposites find each other” dynamic between super agent/dove-reluctant Lance and the naive inventor Walter is as if it were designed on the drawing board. The mainstay of “Spies in Disguise” are the sketch-like moments in which the directing duo Troy Quane & Nick Bruno savor gags without degenerating into awkwardness. These don’t always have to be action scenes like the chase scene mentioned above – Lance’s first moments in the body of a pigeon are also one of the moments in which “Spies in Disguise” celebrates cartoonish, creative fun without becoming strenuous or savoring the punch lines for an annoyingly long time, like it does This is especially the case with Walter’s verbal quirks.
Visually, “Spies in Disguise” lags behind the big competition from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, but is a step forward for Blue Sky after the aesthetically half-baked “Ferdinand” from 2017: The characters are poor in texture and Often a bit stiff, but the cartoonish design is appealing, there is strong color control and the pigeons have the dynamics that a CG action comedy needs. In addition, Quane and Bruno use stylized, atmospheric shadows in some scenes that enhance the look a bit, similar to how Theodore Shapiro’s moody score full of action references gives the film a few plus points on a sound level.
Conclusion: In the best moments, “Spies in Disguise” is dominated by wonderfully bizarre slapstick and routine meta-humor against a lavishly animated backdrop. However, every now and then the makers present too much of a good thing. This means: Especially at the beginning and end of the film, the action and bright colors are very strenuous and might even completely overwhelm a young audience.
“Spies in Disguise” can be seen in USA cinemas nationwide from December 26th.