The Spy Next Door

 
Jackie Chan family flick high on stunts but low on laughs.
  • Review Date: January 6, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 92 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

One important message that the movie conveys is that family isn't just "blood," but also the people you love and who love you. Other take-aways include the importance of honesty in family relationships and how you shouldn't judge someone solely by the way they dress or what they do for a living -- people are complicated and can surprise you.

Positive role models

Bob is a loyal, generous man with well-honed instincts and an unwavering desire to do the right thing. Gillian is a loving single mother who puts her children's needs first. On the downside, the Russian villains are portrayed in somewhat broad stereotypes.

Violence & scariness

Several action sequences, a few with gun-wielding Russian villains. But even during a hostage situation, the threat of real harm is virtually non-existent. Some of the bad guys point guns and act menacingly, but no blood is spilled, and no one is seriously hurt.

Sexy stuff

Bob and Gillian exchange a couple of embraces and tame kisses. Farren flirts with a much older teenager and occasionally tries to wear inappropriate clothes to school. A Russian criminal wears tight, cleavage-bearing clothes. A young boy (Ian) says he watched the Playboy channel in hi-def (and then claims to have spent time at the Playboy Mansion). He also uses a risque pick-up line on an older girl ("If I told you you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?").

Language

Mostly insults: "stupid," "idiot," "loser," "hillbilly," and the like.

Consumerism

Apple is represented with iMac and iPod.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Jackie Chan spy comedy is a moderately action-packed choice for families. Several sequences involve gun-toting Russian criminals, but aside from a character who gets some bruises, there's no bloodshed in the fight scenes. Since this is a family movie, the villains are often knocked out humorously with things like a slammed door or a dropped appliance. There's no iffy language besides insults like "idiot," "stupid," and so on (though even those words aren't exactly something you want your 8-year-olds saying to their friends...), and the "sexy" stuff is limited to a couple of tame kisses and hugs between Chan and Amber Valletta, as well as some slightly off-putting (but mild) flirting between an older teenage spy and a 13-year-old character and a few risque lines from a younger boy. Overall, this is an age-appropriate (if not particularly funny) option for families with tweens and up.

What's the story?

Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) is a Chinese operative who works for the CIA, but he's retiring in order to settle down with his attractive neighbor, Gillian (Amber Valletta), a single mom with three kids, who all think that Bob's a boring, bespectacled pen importer. To prove himself to Gillian, who's reluctant to get serious unless her kids approve, Bob offers to babysit her children -- angsty 13-year-old Farren (Madeline Carroll), precocious 11-year-old Ian (Will Shadley), and adorable 4-year-old Nora (Alina Foley) -- while she visits a hospitalized relative. Meanwhile, a Russian criminal escapes from prison and goes after a secret file in Bob's possession, forcing Bob to reveal himself as a spy to keep the kids safe. George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus co-star as Bob's former CIA handler and colleague, respectively.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Eight-year-old boys aren't a picky lot; any movie with stunts, a few silly jokes, and kids who get to play heroes is going to appeal to them. Parents of 8-year-old boys, however, know that they deserve better than formulaic action comedies about a spy-turned-babysitter who can "take down dictators" but can't make a bowl of oatmeal. We've seen this all before (The Pacifier), and while it passes for mild diversion, a truly compelling movie it isn't. Chan is no doubt a gifted martial artist, and in buddy adventure-comedies, he shines. Unfortunately, he's too much of a goofball to make him a believable love interest (we heard audible "eewws" when he and Valletta kissed).

Even if you forget the romance (since it's just a device to get Chan into babysitting mode), the gags with the kids are all so predictable and corny that only the aforementioned third-graders will laugh; everyone else is more likely to roll their eyes. Lopez has very little to do, and Cyrus is in all of three scenes. Instead, a group of Russian villains (with awful accents and even worse jokes) is relied upon to provide the (faux) drama. Chan's stunts as he holds off the Russians are impressive, but they always are with him, and a few well-executed stunts just aren't enough to make a movie worth your time and money.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about honesty and family relationships. What does Bob mean when he tells Farren that family isn't about "blood" but "love"?

  • The movie's violence is pretty mild, but there are still several characters that use guns. Is this OK for a family movie?

  • Is Jackie Chan believable as a romantic lead? Why or why not?

  • How are the Russian villains portrayed? Are Russians still considered a threat to America?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 15, 2010
DVD release date:May 18, 2010
Cast:Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez, Jackie Chan
Director:Brian Levant
Studio:Lionsgate
Genre:Action/Adventure
Topics:Adventures
Run time:92 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:sequences of action violence and some mild rude humor

This review of The Spy Next Door was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byjklm September 2, 2011
age 9+
 

disrespectfull kids, inappropriate language

The movie is entertaining for kids because of the action, but not appropriate for 8 year olds. The kids in the movie are horrible in the first half. They say awfully disrespectful things to adults like "I hate this family" "Get out of my room!". They also use words like "freakin'" and tell each other they're going to kill each other when fighting. A little boy tells an older girl that she has a great body. The adults make tasteless jokes like "that's like having rum cake at an AA meeting" and "Why get married? You're going to hate her in 5 years anyway so just give her your house now." I usually agree with these reviews, but this one was way off and a disappointment.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent of a 8 year old Written bynatick March 8, 2011
age 7+
 
Great movie for a 7+ year old boys and girls who enjoy action. We watched as a whole family and everyone was laughing and enjoying the movie. Even the grandmother.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byEthan Does “eth... June 2, 2015
age 10+
 

WAY TO GO JACKIE CHAN!!!!!!!!!

I loved this movie, I thought it was very funny. Common sense, U R crazy, I cannot believe this movie got only 2 stars. I loved it! The only problem is it's too violent, and there is an ipod. Whatever, Good messages, good role models, GREAT MOVIE!!!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much consumerism

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