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Spies in Disguise

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Spies in Disguise Movie Poster Image
Odd-couple spy/buddy comedy is wacky fun; lots of action.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 102 minutes
 Popular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 26 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 22 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Viewers will learn a lot about pigeon anatomy and physiology (like the fact that the birds have 360-degree vision and have a single orifice, called the cloaca, for doing "number one and number two").

Positive Messages

Promotes nonviolent (or at least nonlethal) means of negotiating and stopping criminals. Also focuses on need for teamwork and accepting that others' skills and talents can help, not hurt, you. Walter and Lance's growing partnership shows that co-workers and friends don't need to be alike to get along or work well together. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lance is brash, arrogant, quick to get rid of opponents, but learns to be more cautious, think of others, try to stop the villain from hurting anyone. Walter is kind, courageous, concerned with helping.

Violence & Scariness

Lots of action sequences and weapons-based violence between Lance and his targets. A frightening villain plans to kill all agents. People are shot at, captured, knocked unconscious; some life-or-death scenes in which it looks like all is (almost) lost. Physical comedy. A parent dies (off-screen, but the emotional impact is felt).

Sexy Stuff

Lots of flirting from Walter's pet pigeon, Lovey, to Lance (in pigeon form). She keeps fluffing up her feathers and sidling up to him; he responds by pushing her away or saying "Not now, girl." Nonsexual nudity: Kimura's naked backside is visible and shown for a while when he emerges from the bath. Lance looks down into his pants as he starts shrinking into a bird and shrieks.

Language

"Weird" and "weirdo" are often used to insult Walter.

Consumerism

Nothing on-screen, but a few tie-ins off-screen, including a video game.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Gangsters shown drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spies in Disguise is an animated buddy comedy featuring the voices of Will Smith as Lance Sterling, a Bond-like American superspy, and Tom Holland as Walter Beckett, a gadget-happy inventor. After Lance accidentally drinks Walter's invisibility concoction and is turned into a pigeon, the odd-couple duo must work together to save the world from a frightening villain who's using Lance's face to commit criminal acts. There are lots of action sequences involving spy gear and weapons, as well as some life-or-death scenes in which it looks like all is (almost) lost. One character loses a parent; it happens off screen, and no details are discussed, but the emotional impact is felt. The physical comedy includes some rude humor (jokes about bird genitalia, for example), and there's a long scene in which a large, tattooed villain's naked behind is visible a few times. A female pigeon frequently flirts with Lance in his bird form. The chemistry between the voice actors is great, and the film has worthy messages about teamwork and accepting help from others. And for all the action, the movie also clearly promotes nonviolent (or at least nonlethal) means of negotiating with and stopping criminals.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byKellany December 21, 2019

Cute, funny but nudity?

This movie is really cute and full of laughs. The intro credits are very James Bond. And I love James Bond. Also a nerdy scientist who was bullied as a kid beli... Continue reading
Adult Written bydreezyfrom402 December 28, 2019

Not appropriate for younger children

As others have stated, there is nudity in this “children” film. A “bad guy” is seen in a towel, which drops, leaving him completely naked from behind. You see h... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bywhatarewedoing288 January 23, 2020
Kid, 7 years old January 20, 2020

Very Exciting

There is lots of violence like shooting but it is also very funny. There were great role models, too. I enjoyed it.

What's the story?

SPIES IN DISGUISE is an animated spy thriller about two very different men. Suave master spy Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) is known for not mussing his tuxedo while taking down international criminals, while awkward Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) is a young, brilliant inventor who creates spy gear. When a mysterious terrorist is able to use tech to disguise himself as Agent Sterling while committing violent crimes, Lance turns to Walter for help and unexpectedly drinks a newly perfected serum that looks like water. But the invisibility concoction doesn't make Sterling disappear: Instead, it turns him into a pigeon. While in bird form, Lance must team up with Walter as his new/unlikely partner in order to take down the face-stealing mastermind.

Is it any good?

Smith and Holland have great buddy-comedy chemistry and give this weird-in-a-good-way animated adventure a charming, crowd-pleasing vibe. Blue Sky Animation has an impressive track record with animal-focused comedies (four Ice Age films and two Rio movies), and Spies in Disguise continues the studio's streak with the wacky twist of Smith's smooth-talking agent turning into a talking blue pigeon (complete with a tiny tuxedo bow-tie tattoo). Some of the humor may go over very young viewers' heads, but tweens will appreciate the pigeon anatomy jokes, as well as the dark, drone-obsessed adversary (Ben Mendelsohn, who's quite comfortable playing villains and can sound quite chilling).

Although the two leads work mostly as a duo, the talented supporting cast includes Reba McEntire as Sterling's unit director, Rashida Jones as an internal affairs investigator (who believes Sterling has turned traitor), and Karen Gillan and DJ Khaled as her well-intentioned but misguided team. The Mark Ronson-produced soundtrack prominently features Rob Base's "It Takes Two" (for the Gen X parents), "Rocket Fuel" by DJ Shadow and De La Soul, "Fly" by Lucky Daye, and other high-energy tracks. But what really elevates this story is Walter's insistence on nonviolence (or at least nonlethal violence), creating gadgets and tech that focus on distracting and humanizing enemies with glitter-and-kitten bombs and other adorable innovations. The movie's sweet, heartwarming message of peace and understanding is one everyone could use.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the positive messages in Spies in Disguise. What does Lance learn about peaceful negotiation thanks to Walter? Why is it important not to be casually OK with violence, even if it's for government reasons?

  • Which characters do you consider role models in the movie? What are their character strengths?

  • What are your favorite buddy movies? Why do you think the genre works, particularly in action/adventure? What are some of your favorite examples? Why are the buddies usually "odd couples" with very different personalities, strengths, and styles?

  • Do you think there's potential for a sequel to this movie? If so, what would you like to see more of in the story?

Movie details

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