Spies in Disguise Parent Guide
A funny, action-packed spy comedy that will have parents laughing along with their kids.
Parent Movie Review
Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is the best spy in the world - famous, attractive, suave, and dangerous. But when he is framed for the theft of a prototype assassin drone, the only person he can turn to for help is Walter Beckett (Tom Holland). Walter is everything Lance isn’t - awkward, gangly, short…and brilliant. Intrigued by Walter’s latest experimental concoction, Lance impulsively chugs it down, turning himself into a pigeon. Now the bird and the boy genius will have to work together to prevent the malicious (and subtly named) Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) from unleashing the assassin drone…
This movie came as a pleasant surprise for me. After seeing the uninspiring trailer, I arrived at the theater pessimistically mulling over witty one-liners to use if the film turned out to be as bad as I feared. Much to my delight, my snarky comments turned out to be unnecessary. Spies in Disguise is good-hearted, funny, and well-paced. Color me shocked.
Voice acting is critical in any animated feature and the leads really shine in this production. Will Smith is in his element with voice acting since he’s so expressive to start with. Both his and Tom Holland’s characters kind of look like the actors, but more importantly, the animators do such an excellent job in capturing their characters’ personalities that the characters feel like the actors.
As usual, the most important factor in rating a comedy is its sense of humor. Spies in Disguise is a mixed bag in this department: the jokes are a bit flat, but the physical comedy is absolutely wonderful. Somehow, watching a line of half a dozen goons get whacked between the legs with a befuddled pigeon just doesn’t get old. At least not for me, which leads me to think that I really haven’t matured much since eighth grade.
Given my reference to slapstick pigeon-whacking, parents might be worried about the level of violence in this film. But they don’t need to be unduly concerned. Although there are a lot of scenes involving cartoon violence and various perilous scenarios there is little else to worry about – unless you’re thinking about bringing tiny tots who could be easily scared by the action. This film teaches kids that they should be kind even to people who haven’t been kind to them. And it encourages audiences to find non-violent solutions to problems. As Walter points out to Lance, “When you fight fire with fire, we all get burned.” Parents with squabbling kids might find this message alone to be worth the price of the movie tickets.
The other issue for parents is how adult-friendly this movie is going to be. If you’re nervously considering spending 102 minutes in a dark room, bored out of your mind, with no socially acceptable excuse to grab your phone, you can take a deep breath. Spies in Disguise is fun for most adults and it’s short enough that even if you hate slapstick (which….come on, what’s not to love about a man getting yo-yoed into a concrete wall by a bunch of pink goo?) you won’t be in the theater long enough to get too aggravated by it. It’s a win-win, right? As long as your kids don’t start trying to catch pigeons outside, that is. Still, you win some, you lose some, your kids get bird flu some. That’s life.Directed by Troy Quane & Nick Bruno. Starring Will Smith, Tom Holland, and Rashida Jones. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release December 25, 2019. Updated December 26, 2019
Watch the trailer for Spies in Disguise
Spies in Disguise
Rating & Content Info
Why is Spies in Disguise rated PG? Spies in Disguise is rated PG by the MPAA for action, violence, and rude humor
Violence: Several individuals are knocked out. Some are presumably injured in a large explosion. A man is comically crushed by a large bell. An individual falls bottom-first onto a sharp compass. An individual gets hand sanitizer in their eyes. There are obscure references to torture. An individual falls to their death off-screen.
Sexual Content: No sexual content is shown. There are two scenes of a man’s naked buttocks in a comedic context.
Profanity: There is a single term of deity and some unfinished crude terms. There’s a bit of name-calling as well.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A number of gangsters are shown drinking and behaving erratically. Several pigeons are shown (unsuccessfully) trying to drink a martini.
Page last updated December 26, 2019
Spies in Disguise Parents' Guide
Lance believes the only way to deal with all the evil in the world is to “fight fire with fire”. Walter, on the other hand, believes there is a better way: one with a lot less violence. He believes that “when you fight fire with fire, we all get burned”. Why do you think Lance thinks the way he does? What about Walter? Whose position do you agree with and why?
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Older kids and younger teens will enjoy Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker, in which teenage MI6 agent Alex Rider begins his adventures by facing off against Herod Sayle, a tech genius with a grudge against England.
Related home video titles:
Older kids and teens will enjoy Get Smart, which in my opinion, is the best spy comedy ever made. Starring Steve Carrell as the hapless Maxwell Smart, a secret agent on the trail of CHAOS, an evil organization with nefarious plans for some stolen uranium.
Disney’s The Incredibles is another classic, and probably the best Disney film of the last 20 years. It follows the exploits of a family of superheroes who must overcome their personal struggles to fend off the nefarious Syndrome.
While different in tone and content, Rio (also from Blue Sky Studios) features a similar style of physical comedy and bird animation.