Spy School Movie Poster Image

Spy School

Madcap tween story has cartoonish violence, some bullying.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 86 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In its own way, this movie shows the consequences for a boy who is constantly making up elaborate stories to try and get out of trouble. The movie also discusses how the kind of person you are inside is more important than what you do for a living.

Positive role models

For all his mischief, Thomas is basically a good kid who learns what happens when all you do is tell stories to fellow students and to authority figures. Thomas also learns that the value of having real friends over knowing people who are "popular."

Violence & scariness

Mostly cartoonish violence and pratfalls. Some bullying; a bully slams a metal door into the arm of the lead character, knocking him to the floor and making it seem that his arm is broken. A boy opens a metal case to find a gun inside. While crawling inside a ventilation shaft, two kids narrowly escape a gas fire that erupts behind them.

Sexy stuff

Some tween kissy-kissy flirtation.


Some name-calling from bullies along the order of "loser" and "jerk."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

An adult character smokes a cigar.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Spy School is essentially a movie-length extrapolation of the expression, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive." The lead character, Thomas, is a mischievous liar, but eventually he learns a valuable lesson in truth telling. The movie also shows how and why it's better to value the friends who actually like you over classmates who are merely perceived as being "popular." There's some cartoonish violence, but, more troubling, there's also some bullying, including a scene in which a bully slams a door into the main character's arm, knocking him to the ground and leaving him with what he thinks is a broken arm. Parents should also know that despite the movie's title, this movie is not set in a spy school; the change from an earlier title (Doubting Thomas) seems like an attempt to lump this in with more successful movies like Spy Kids.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Thomas Miller (Forrest Landis) is a mischievous 12-year-old boy who is constantly making up exaggerated stories to get out of trouble while dealing with bullies and teachers. His only friend is Jackie (AnnaSophia Robb), a fellow school misfit who is beginning to have stronger feelings than friendship for Thomas. Meanwhile, their school is abuzz with the news that the President's daughter, Christina Adams, will be attending the school dance. But when Thomas learns of an evil plan to kidnap the President's daughter, everyone simply writes it off as another one of Thomas's lies. It's up to Thomas to find out who is trying to kidnap the First Daughter, who the good guys are in the whole debacle, and somehow prove that he is actually, for once, telling the truth.

Is it any good?


Kids will enjoy SPY SCHOOL for its portrayal of bumbling and oafish authority figures, and the mischievous ways in which Thomas gets out of trouble through his over-the-top tales. Parents who can overlook these cartoonish portrayals will ultimately enjoy the movie's overarching message on why it's important to tell the truth. Through the exaggerated parody of middle school life and the misadventures in the story itself, timeless messages of being honest and being grateful for the friends you have emerge.

Although it's the kind of movie that makes it hard to suspend disbelief, there's enough charm in the acting to overcome some of the forced plot points along the way. As lead liar Thomas, Forrest Landis isn't as annoying as other precocious child actors playing precocious kids, and as his would-be girlfriend, AnnaSophia Robb, adds a dimension of sweetness to the movie as the two characters navigate through the difficulties of a budding tween romance. It's not the most sophisticated comedy out there for families, but the humor and the message should make this a movie both parents and kids can enjoy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about bullying. How does this movie present bullying? How does Thomas deal with the bullies around him?

  • What should you do if you are being bullied? What about if you see someone being bullied?

  • How accurately does this movie show what it's like to be a 12-year-old? Does your school have cliques and bullies too?

Movie details

DVD/Streaming release date:January 20, 2009
Cast:D.L. Hughley, Lea Thompson, Rider Strong
Director:Mark Blutman
Studio:Screen Media Films
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Run time:86 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:Mild action and brief smoking.

This review of Spy School was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 11 years old September 30, 2013

Bad movie that is not about spy schools, but about 9 year olds dating

This is an extremely disappointing movie. You should definitely skip it unless you have a kid who loves all things just a tiny bit related to spies. In this movie there is bullying that doesn't make much sense, and kids who look nine kissing and dating. There's a tiny message about telling the truth, but you'll probably overlook it. The name Spy School makes no sense whatsoever since it has nothing to do with a spy school. The confusing plot of everybody being bad, then working for the CIA, then being bad, it really leaves you wondering what the heck is going on. Just skip it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex