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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spycies is an animated animal-spy adventure with much cartoon violence and some moments of peril. The main villain freezes characters with an ice gun built into his robot suit. Though no one dies, Hector (voiced by Dino Andrade) requires CPR to revive him. Hector and Vladimir (Kirk Thornton) are also attacked by laser-shooting drones. There are a number of fight scenes, where characters punch, kick, and scratch. But it's all very cartoony with no serious injuries. Hector finds himself in a psychiatric ward, where a number of characters display negative stereotypes of mental illness. While these characters prove heroic, their portrayal still feels problematic. Part of the story revolves around climate change. But it's used primarily as a plot device rather than exploring the issues behind it. Friendship and teamwork are key themes to the movie, with Vladimir in particular learning the importance of both. "Oh my God" is used as an exclamation multiple times, while the word "crap" is also used. Both Hector and a fire-breathing dragon are given an anesthetic to render them unconscious.
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What's the story?
In SPYCIES, Vladimir (Kirk Thornton) and Hector (Dino Andrade) -- two secret agents with completely contrasting personalities -- are placed on a job together. When some classified material is stolen from them, the two must put aside their differences in order to retrieve it. Along the way, they discover not only a bigger conspiracy, but also the importance of friendship and teamwork.
Is it any good?
A buddy movie with a touch of the James Bond and an environmental message at its core, Spycies promises much but ultimately leaves a feeling of "meh." The movie starts with a car chase akin to an opening action sequence so often seen in the 007 movies. When superspy Vladimir is asked his name, he even responds with, "Willis. Vladimir Willis." The action is relentless, so much so that the storyline takes a backseat. Which is a shame as the plot revolves heavily around climate change and the decline of animal species -- an admirable and all too rare theme in this genre.
There's also no escaping the problematic portrayal of the psychiatric ward. Depicting characters in straitjackets licking tables and obsessively cleaning feels out of sync with a movie whose heart -- for the most part -- appears to be in the right place. The first-rate animation is what you'd expect from the team that created Despicable Me, Minions, and The Secret Life of Pets. But beyond the car chases, shoot-ups, fistfights, and drone attacks, there's little left other than a mere footnote about climate change. Which feels like an opportunity missed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the cartoon violence in Spycies. Did you find any of the scenes too extreme for a movie like this? Did the fact that there were no serious consequences make a difference to how you felt about the scenes? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Discuss the environmental themes in the movie. What messages did you take from the movie? What can we do in real life to help stop climate change? What other movies teach us about climate change?
Vladimir and Hector learn the importance of friendship and teamwork. Can you give some real-life examples of when you've needed to work as a team with your friends?
What do you think of how the characters on the psychiatric ward were portrayed? Why might this portrayal be problematic? Discuss the problems that stereotypes can cause.
- In theaters: February 14, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: June 9, 2020
- Cast: Kirk Thornton, Dino Andrade, Salli Saffioti
- Director: Guillaume Ivernel
- Studio: Kaleidoscope Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: June 11, 2020
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