It's a sad that Hollywood
has trouble finding a vehicle for one of the biggest movie stars in the
world. Jackie Chan is a mega-superstar
in Asia and well known through out
for his innovative blending of kung-fu action with slapstick comedy and
jaw-dropping stunts. He's filled
theaters around the globe with the movies that he's made in Hong Kong,
some reason Hollywood just won't accept that he's a star.
Instead of casting him in the lead role, he's
often saddled with a comedian in buddy pictures (Rush Hour,
Shanghai Knights) or having to play what amounts to a
supporting role (Around
the World in 80
Forbidden Kingdom). In the
few times he's actually had the lead in a film made in the west, he's
saddled with a horrible script (The
Medallion, The Tuxedo). I've been a
big fan of Chan for a long time, and though I have high hopes for each
films (he certainly deserves a big Hollywood paycheck) I've always been
disappointed with the vehicles that he's been pushed into when he goes
to Hollywood. His latest foray into US theaters, The Spy
Next Door, is also a bit of a disappointment, but it does have
values. It's a fun, if predictable
family movie that even the youngest children can enjoy and the parents
endure without too much effort.
Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) has been dating his divorced next door
neighbor (who has three kids) Gillian (Amber Valletta) for the past
months. She's madly in love with
him. He's funny, kind, and
dependable. The only problem is that her
kids hate him because he's so boring.
They think he's a stiff pen importer, but in reality he's a spy
from China sent to
help the CIA track down a group of
Russian agents who are using the US as a base to develop a
that will destroy the world's oil reserves.
(Why are they not just developing the weapon in Russia??)
After capturing the leader of the Russian spy ring, Bob
quits his job so that he can settle down and have a normal life with
and her family. He even volunteers to
take care of her kids when she has to attend to a family medical
of state, figuring it'll give him time to win the kids over. But when the leader of the Russian
no-goodniks escapes and tracks the secret formula to Bob's home
finds himself battling a group muscular foreign agents while trying to
care of a house full of unruly kids.
My kids are older now, but a few years ago I would have
considered this a perfect 'pizza and a movie' night flick.
I was always struggling to find a movie that
I could sit through that they would enjoy.
Ya know, something without talking animals or with a plot so
I'd fear slipping into a diabetic coma.
This movie is definitely better than a lot of the 'family
movies that are being released now, and it does have its moments.
Of course the plot is very familiar. Taking
a page from Kindergarten Cop and The
Pacifier, this film has a 'haven't I seen this before' feel to it,
pretty easy to figure out exactly what's going to happen from the very
beginning. The script is typical and by
the book. Opening action scene to
establish Jackie's character?
Check! Heart-felt scene where
Jackie bonds with the oldest daughter who feels rejected?
Comic scene where the secret agent has trouble getting the
dressed and uses his fancy spy skills to accomplish the task? Check!
Big action finale followed by the wrap up where it looks like
going to reject the true love of her life?
Check! Looks like we've got
ourselves a script boys!
The acting was surprisingly mediocre for a Hollywood
film. Yeah, it's hard to find kids who
are also good actors, but the children in this movie just weren't too
convincing. On top of that Amber Valletta
had almost no chemistry with Jackie Chan.
The two never really felt like they were a couple in love. Chan did his usual good job though and the
movie was always more interesting when he was on the screen.
Jackie Chan is getting a bit old now, and it obvious that he
doesn't have the energy and speed that he did 20 years ago. He does a bit more 'wire-fu' than he did back
in the day too. Even so his action
scenes are good and he manages to use a lot of household objects in his
a trademark that is still as fun as it ever was. In
his Hong Kong
movies there's usually one showcase stunt that is really impressive and
movie didn't have that, which is a shame.
But fans will still be happy with what does end up on screen. Even an older Jackie doing what he's done
countless times before is still very enjoyable.
On the positive side, there were some humorous moments that
will get the kids laughing and bring a smile to the face of parents. The 4 year old daughter proclaiming "it
doesn't look like they have chicken tenders here" when Bob takes the
group to a
Chinese restaurant was funny for me since my youngest said the same
he was that age, and the running gag of the escaped Russian leader
find clothes to change into was amusing too.
Other parts didn't work so well.
The female Russian agent spitting out fake teeth and having her
smeared over her face after having a door close on her while she was
through was cringe-inducing and some of the wire-fu scenes stood out as
awkward and bad (where Jackie catches the youngest girl with a pool net
example.) Still, it's a family movie
that's fun, and there aren't too many of those around.
This release comes with both a Blu-ray disc and a DVD in a
single width Blu-ray case.
The 1.78:1 AVC MPEG-4 1080p image looks pretty good.
It's about average for a Blu-ray release,
which means that it's not bad at all.
The level of detail is very good, which ironically makes Jackie
look a bit older than he probably wanted to appear.
The colors are nice and the skin tones look
accurate. The black are a little uneven
in places and there are a couple of scenes that appear a bit soft, but
problems are the exception rather than the rule.
The film comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is very
good. One of my pet peeves are action
films that have great dynamic audio effects during the battle scenes
collapse to a basic stereo soundtrack immediately afterwards. This movie doesn't do that.
Even in the more ordinary scenes like when
Jackie is walking through a school, the full soundstage is used to
nice atmosphere. Of course when the
action scenes begin the LFE channel kicks in and the surround speakers
to some serious work. It's a nice
sounding movie overall.
The disc also comes with a couple of light weight
featurettes. The first is Jackie
Chan: Stunt Master and Mentor which
runs a tad over 10 minutes. Here the
cast and crew gather around to say nice things about the star. It's a fluff piece but still fun to
watch. Adventures in Acting
with the Kids of The Spy Next Door is an 11
minute piece that interviews the kids and Jackie who discuss what it
working together. There's a cute piece
where the young 5-year-old girl talks about getting bit by the pet
turtle (she figures he was annoyed by all of the action on the set that
taking place at the time) and forgives him for it.
It was incredibly cute.
Finally there's a gag reel, but since it's the exact same
thing that runs at the beginning of the credits it seem pretty
include it as an extra.
This isn't one of Jackie Chan's best movies, but it is a
little bit better than most of the work he's done in Hollywood.
It's a predictable and safe family film that young kids will
parents can tolerate. When my two boys
were under 10, I was always searching for a movie like this that they
watch and I could tolerate (by the time the oldest was 13 I had given
up on the
search. "Screw it, we're watching Terminator." Movie night has
been more enjoyable
since.) If you're looking for something
to watch with the youngsters you could do much worse than this. Recommended.
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
represent the image quality on the disc.