Martial arts maestro Jackie Chan makes a play for adolescent embrace in The Spy Next Door, a mirthless, unimaginative piece of desultory entertainment that is neither well executed enough to elicit any substantive emotional response other than begrudging tolerance, nor hyper-realistic enough to work as a slice of silly, colorful fun, a la Robert Rodriguez’s recent Shorts. The Spy Next Door will benefit from a general lack of family film competition in the latter frames of January, but its poor word-of-mouth among Chan’s Stateside fans, familiar with the slightly more adult tones of his Rush Hour and Shanghai series, will quickly consign its best commercial prospects to home video.
The movie suffers from anemic follow-through on its most basic comedic set-ups, as well as an overall lack of imagination. While one blanches at passing too harsh a judgment on a film’s adolescent performances, the unfocused and uneven nature of the child acting further evidences Brian Levant’s poor direction. Chan, meanwhile, mugs mercilessly. The jokes all misfire, but there’s still something mildly amusing about Chan’s indefatigable effort and consistently sunny personality, which helps make the English-mangling outtakes which play over the end credits the film’s undisputed high point. For the full original review, from Screen International, click here. (Lionsgate, PG, 94 minutes)