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The Spy Next Door

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The Spy Next Door
Released on Friday, Mar 19 2010

Jackie Chan has developed a recent habit of telling anyone who'll listen how little he cares for the Rush Hour franchise. Apparently, he didn't get the Americanised humour and wasn't even a fan of the action scenes. Well, why do 'em Jackie? In equally candid form, he's admitted that, hey, "they generated hundreds and hundreds of millions and they're paying us really well" - and who can blame him! Which leads us neatly on to The Spy Next Door, another US-based action comedy showcasing the 55-year-old's evergreen martial arts prowess and continued struggle to turn in a decent comic performance.

The plot finds Chan as Bob Ho, a soon-to-retire secret agent posing as a pen importer who has a fledging relationship with attractive next-door neighbour Gillian (Amber Valletta). He loves her and she loves him, but her three kids are less than impressed with their dull potential stepfather. Especially mardy is eldest daughter Farren (Madeline Carroll), who harbours more antipathy for poor Bob than her siblings Ian (Will Shadley) and Nora (Alina Foley). When Gillian has to leave town in a hurry for her dad's hip op, Bob has a great idea - why doesn't he babysit the kids, win them over, and thus convince Gillian that their relationship has a future! What could possibly go wrong?!

Where to start. While the kids are pleasingly bratty-but-sweet-natured and full of life, poor Chan just doesn't have the acting ability to keep such a daft film together in the way other action heroes might in a similar family-friendly setup. Jackie, God bless him, has obviously been cast for his fighting skills, and there's nowt wrong with his spins, turns and chops here. Valletta and supporting castmembers like Billy Ray Cyrus really should be doing better though. There's a misconception that broad comedy is easy to write and even easier to perform, but anyone who's watched Tittybangbang will know how untrue that is. Far too many one-liners fall flat and fail to distract you from the naffness of the the Spy Vs Spy thrills on offer.

In fairness, the 92 minutes zip by relatively quickly and there are some enjoyably sparky action set-pieces and funny lines sprinkled about. "I look like the Fresh Prince Of Belarus!" cries the Russian (Russian!? It's 2010!) agent whose lackeys have failed on the outfit-hunting expedition. It's really not enough, though, and all too often you end up questioning who this film is really aimed at. Factors like the incredible uplift of Tatiana Creel (Katherine Boecher)'s pneumatic breasts and bizarre suggestion that a 10-year-old boy would be impressed with a bootleg CD of an Iggy Pop/David Bowie gig in Shanghai betray a desire to entertain both adults and kids. Instead though, The Spy Next Door ends up falling somewhere awkwardly in the middle. It's taken tens of millions Stateside, so a sequel - probably featuring the kids in spy roles themselves - is a distinct possibility. You have been warned.


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