Studio:Lionsgate Year: 2010 Cast: Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley, Magnus Scheving, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez, Alina Foley Director: Brian Levant Release Date: May 18, 2010 Rating: PG for (sequences of action violence and some mild rude humor) Run Time: 01h:34m:18s Genre(s): action
ìI have to tell you about my job. This might shock you, but you should know everything before this relationship goes further.î
- Bob Ho (Jackie Chan)
A family movie starring Jackie Chan is sure to be as harmless as it gets, but hopefully it's just as enjoyable for the adults in the family as it is for the youngsters.
Movie Grade: C-
DVD Grade: B
As a former fan of Jackie Chan, itís been difficult to adjust to the ìnew,î family-friendly Jackie
Chan. Not that Jackieís old persona involved the murdering of innocent women and children in his movies, but at
least his old, Chinese martial arts films involved characters who were in adult-themed storylines and peril. Now, like
nearly every major Hollywood action star before him (feel free to put all of the blame on Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Kindergarten Cop), Chan has gone to the dark side, which is actually the lightest side an actor can go to: that
dreaded realm knows as the family film. Not only did he recently appear in the reimagining/reboot/regurgitation
that was The Karate Kid, but earlier in 2010, he starred in the kid-centric fluff piece, The Spy Next Door. While
adults should steer clear if they can, kids can now enjoy this tepidly-received (critically and at the box office)
ìactionî vehicle in one nice Blu-ray/DVD combo package from Lionsgate.
Chan plays retired CIA agent Bob Ho, who has just traded in his action-packed career for a potentially boring
family life with his girlfriend, Gillian (Amber Valletta), and her three kids, Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will
Shadley), and Nora (Alina Foley). Bob has his work cut out for him, though, as Gillianís kids could care less about
him, even going so far as to attempt to avoid him at all costs. In the middle of his family adjustment problems,
Bob is contacted by his ex-partner, Colton James (Billy Ray Cyrus), who asks him to help decrypt a code that could
be related to the prison escape of Russian criminal mastermind, Poldark (Magnus Scheving). An accidental file
transfer puts Bob and his family in imminent danger, but if he can save them from Poldark, he might also save his
chances at total acceptance, and maybe even love, from his new family.
Ok, so thereís no reason to give any sort of false pretenses that The Spy Next Door is a good movie, because it flat
out isnít. However, as a means of keeping your kids happy while you arenít subjected to a worse movie, itís not a
bad flick. Despite some of the worst action sequences of Chanís career, thereís enough rock-em, sock-em stuff here
to keep the adults and kids in the room interested. If only director Brian Levant (Beethoven, Jingle All the Way)
knows his way around a family-oriented flick or two, but he has a hard time staging anything appealing to adults
during this filmís non-action sequences. Still, while I found my mind wandering during those scenes, I was dialed
right back in to what was happening on screen when Chan was back to kicking bad guysí butts.
The most glaring problem is with the supporting cast. While Billy Ray Cyrus is as horrible here as I expected, I was
a little more disappointed at how bad George Lopez was as the CIA director. By no stretch of the imagination is
Lopez a ìgreatî comedian, but his semi-recent, inspired turn as a boozing, womanizing, drug-addicted mayor in
Reno 911!, gave me at least some hope that he might bring at least a hint of edginess to this fluffy material.
Unfortunately, he does nothing of the sort here, and turns his horribly-written dialogue into far worse scenes than
they needed to be. Lopez is quickly becoming a go-to guy for family movies, but hereís hoping his upcoming voice
work in The Smurfs is much better than his live action work here.
Seasoned Jackie Chan veterans will have a number of complaints with the aforementioned poorly-executed action
sequences (including abnormally weak wire-work), but at least they look very impressive on Lionsgateís Blu-ray
disc. The overall video quality is quite impressive, yet not without a few issues. The color scheme is bright, vivid
and family-friendly throughout but an overabundance of grain and poorly handled contrast and black levels drag
the transfer down a bit. The lossless audio track fares far better, though, with a strong bass presence adding nice
punch to the action sequences. The best extra this package boasts is the inclusion of the feature on a separate,
standard DVD. Other than that, we get a couple of featurettes and an entertaining, Chan-centric blooper reel.