Making the Grades
Jackie Chan has long since proven his martial arts skills starring in films like The Medallion, The Forbidden Kingdom, and the Rush Hour trilogy. He also has a knack for more family friendly comedy. Exuding ample screen presence, the 55-year-old still does most of his own stunts in this action-oriented film that contains generous amounts of clowning and the clever manipulation of various props, such as folding chairs, a bicycle and kitchen utensils.
Although the violent depictions found here aren’t quite as intense as those in many of Chan’s other productions, The Spy Next Door still contains plenty of hand-to-hand combat, the brief inclusion of gun use, and a cleaver-style knife employed during a scuffle in a restaurant. While many kids will understand the danger of mimicking these antics at home, parents of particularly impressionable young viewers may prefer to preview these skirmishes before showing them to their offspring.
In the movie, Chan plays Bob, a nerdy pen salesman who lives next door to Gillian (Amber Valletta) and her three children, Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley) and Nora (Alina Foley). He and Gillian have been seeing one another for a while but the single mom is reluctant to pursue the relationship considering the fact not one of her children likes Bob.
However, when she is called out of town to care for her bedridden father, Bob takes the opportunity to offer his babysitting services in hopes of connecting with the kids. Despite his mild-mannered demeanor, he is confident he can handle the responsibility since (unbeknownst to the family) he is really an undercover, international spy on loan to the CIA from China. Relying on some specialized secret agent equipment, Bob starts to reign in the trio of terribly behaved siblings.
Meanwhile, Poldark (Magnús Scheving), a Russian villain, and his cohorts (Katherine Boecher, Troy Brenna, Kevin Christopher Brown) are developing a formula that will threaten the world’s oil supply. Wanting to crack the computer code that protects Poldark’s program, Bob’s fellow employees at the government agency (George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus) send him a copy of the file. Unfortunately young Ian mistakes it for concert footage and transfers it to his MP3 player.
Tracing the download to its source, Poldark and his henchmen descend on the family’s busy neighborhood street on Halloween evening with the intent of retrieving the secret information—regardless of how it is done.
The script’s messages will be difficult to miss thanks to obvious life lessons about family love and acceptance and the heavy-handed use of the musical score. Yet Chan manages to keep the movie moving along at a clip that makes the advice more palatable by engaging the attention of younger audience members with plenty of physical feats. In fact, kids may even go home wishing they had a spy living next door.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Spy Next Door.
Why does Farren feel like the outsider in her family? What impact can parental desertion have on children? How does Bob’s childhood experience influence her attitude?
Ian feels ostracized at school because he is brainy rather than athletic. What other things may be contributing to the way he is treated? How can parents help children feel confident in public regardless of their natural inclinations?
How does this film’s musical score contribute to the story? How is it used to let audiences know how they should feel? What types of music are used?