Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Spy Next Door

The Spy Next Door
Jackie Chan, George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus

Rated: PG sequences of action violence and some mild rude humor
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: January 15, 2010 Released by: Lions Gate Films

From the maker of Snow Dogs and The Flintstones comes another silly action comedy aimed towards kids.

The Spy Next Door stars Jackie Chan, George Lopez, and Billy Ray Cyrus and goes to show that the Buster Keaton-esque martial arts actor is willing to let his reputation slide a bit. At least, before an updating of The Karate Kid comes this summer.

The unusual trio are featured for general audiences under Brian Levant's hamfisted direction which lionizes Chan at the outset with footage from his early Hong Kong work.

Unfortunately, what appears before the amusing energetic outtakes is rather shipshod and mangled, one with the execution of something like the unfocused Old Dogs.

Chan's cheery Bob Ho uses a cover as a pen importer in place of a secret agent retained when necessary by the CIA. There, he's worked with Agents Glaze (Lopez) and Colton (Cyrus). And, he's in a relationship with single mom Gillian (Amber Valletta of Hitch) while her kids look at him with little respect.

So, this cookie-cutter and really generic take on The Pacifier and Spy Kids has Bob babysitting the kids and ending up having to fend off "secret" agents when one of them downloads a special code.

Once the kids realize who Bob is the sonorous slapstick is revved up before the saccharine and sentimental make things rather unbearable, especially for those accompanying their youngsters or someone else's.

The middle middle-aged star seems to like getting the right reaction shot and has fun in tripping a bit over the language barrier. But, even he would admit that he doesn't have the chops or personality to make any spark with someone like Valletta who has a vacuous part here. And, it doesn't help that the child acting doesn't even earn amateur status.

It seems that Cyrus would rather be working with his daughter and Lopez probably on a sequel to Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The Spy Next Door might have made for a Disney Channel pilot, but even something rapidly pasted together like this wouldn't be the kind of series even old dogs would lap up.

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