Having loved the humor of “Men In Black” and being a fan of Tom Holland (even before he was cast as Spider Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), I saw the trailer for “Spies in Disguise” and thought: good heavens! A spy that turns into a pigeon. What a horrible plot. And yeah, this isn’t the kind of film that adults will (ahem) flock to see, but Will Smith’s comedy and Tom Holland’s sincerity give this film wings.
Smith lends his voice to tuxedo-clad super-spy Lance Sterling. He’s calm, cool, and collected and Lance’s success makes him the envy of all his colleagues at the unnamed agency, whose headquarters (in “Men in Black” style) lies hidden.
Holland voices Walter Beckett, a geeky inventor very much like Q in the James Bond films. Just like everyone else at the agency, he idolizes Lance and really wants to work with him. But Walter’s inventions don’t seem to be very useful and he’s pretty much the laughingstock of the agency. You see, Walter’s mom, a police officer, died in the line of duty when he was young and this experience has heavily influenced his life and work.
Tom Holland voices Walter Beckett in "Spies in Disguise." © 2019 Blue Sky Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Lance and Walter find themselves thrown together when the bad guy, Killian (Ben Mendelsohn), wearing Lance’s face, infiltrates an agency facility and steals valuable tech. Being wrongly accused, Lance finds himself at Walter’s home and turns himself into a pigeon by mistakenly drinking one of Walter’s experimental inventions.
You can just imagine the silliness of the situation as Lance discovers the pros and cons of being a pigeon. Meanwhile, Walter’s ecstatic because he thinks it’s perfect for a spy. After all, pigeons are everywhere and nobody takes notice of them, he tells Lance who just want to be “un-birded.” Smith’s comedic timing makes the action which follows Lance’s transformation genuinely hilarious. Of course, potty humor and birdy bodily functions all make an appearance which will delight the kids and having everyone going “EEeeeewwwww” quite a bit.
Will Smith voices Lance Sterling in "Spies in Disguise." © 2019 Blue Sky Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Based on the short film, “Pigeon: Impossible,” and directed by Nick Bruno and Tony Quane, “Spies in Disguise” is a great family film with something that parents can use to talk to kids about ways to handle conflict. To describe this I need to warn readers about a small spoiler: Unlike Q’s inventions for James Bond, Walter doesn’t want anyone else to face his mother’s fate, so his crime-fighting inventions are non-lethal and bordering on cute, including glitter bombs that feature holograms of kittens which Walter names (yes, you guessed it!) kitty glitter. This is meant to distract the bad guys so the spy can do what he needs to do without killing anyone. Walter, of course, spouts scientific stuff about glitter’s serotonin-releasing properties basically meaning “glitter makes you happy.”
Walter has a hard time convincing Lance that blowing stuff up isn’t the only way to fight the criminals but Lance is eventually won over by Walter’s utter sincerity and has to finally admit that Walter’s non-violent gadgets get the job done in a pinch.
Walter’s determination that problems can be solved in a non-violent manner gives parents a great opportunity to reinforce this idea with kids. Ask the kids what they think of Walter’s inventions and why he’s so insistent on non-violence. Maybe you could even challenge the kids to come up with their own ideas for non-violent ways to deal with conflicts they are likely to experience in their lives. Just don’t let them eat garbage as they pretend to be super-spy pigeons!