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The Spy Next Door
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: January 15, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: 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
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.