Lance Stirling (Will Smith) is "the world's most awesome spy" but he faces his greatest challenge yet when bad guy Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) frames him for a crime he didn’t commit. Forced to go on the run, the secret agent turns to colleague Walter Beckett (Tom Holland), a young, geeky inventor who designs gadgets that don’t cause violence or harm, as he believes “there’s a better way” to fight evil. Lance discovers that Walter has developed a technology that will allow its users to disappear, but when Lance tries out the "biodynamic concealment", he turns into a pigeon. With no antidote, he has no other choice but to clear his name and save the world in this form. Moreover, having always worked alone, he has no other choice but to let Walter come along for the ride and help. Things are about to get aviary.
With Mendelsohn as the villain, Holland as the dorky, over-enthusiastic kid, and Smith as the cool, suave spy, but also with the comedic range for when he’s been turned into a bird to freak out and prove inept, the casting of ‘Spies in Disguise’ is obvious but functions well. Fellow cast members Rashida Jones, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled and Rachel Brosnahan make able supports. ‘Spies in Disguise’ marks the directorial debut of Nick Bruno and Troy Quane. Having worked in the animation department of such films as ‘Rio’, ‘Ice Age: Collision Course’ and ‘9’, their background shows in the slick, polished animation of ‘Spies’.
The movie that most immediately comes to mind watching the feature is ‘The Incredibles’, and it also borrows spy movies without relying on references to them as a clutch. Rather, the humour and heart emerges from the characters and core relationship between Lance and Walter – as it should for any movie – and as a result, ‘Spies in Disguise’ ends up being a cushy, entertaining, competent animated feature. It helps that one of the writer’s, Brad Copeland, credits include ‘My Name is Earl’, ‘The Inbetweeners’ and ‘Arrested Development’, so he gets quirky comedy.
The stunts and action sequences are fast-paced and sleek, following animated movie logic of large teams getting taken out at once and gravity not being an issue. Its core conflict of fighting fire with fire, the belief Lance and Killian stand by, versus finding a peaceful way, as endorsed by Walter, can be a bit cheesy. Due to his stance, Walter’s spy gadget designs range from glitter bombs with purring kittens and bubbles that surround individuals with a protective layer. They’re a bit lame, so don’t be expecting Bond. Still, younger audience members will most certainly enjoy this sharper animated offering of 2019 – and the adults who go along with them will be surprised at how much they enjoy themselves too.