Film Reviews

The Spy Next Door Is Immediately Forgettable Family Entertainment

Like director Brian Levant's last two outings — 2002's Snow Dogs, 2005's Are We There Yet? — The Spy Next Door is immediately forgettable family entertainment, suitable for release only in the dung-heap month of January. Jackie Chan, game as ever, stars as Bob Ho, an undercover CIA agent from China posing as a sweater-vested pen importer who offers to mind the three kids (roughly 13, 9, and 4) of his Albuquerque next-door-neighbor sweetheart, Gillian (Amber Valletta), while she's away in Denver. When not preparing breakfast or shuttling his obnoxious new charges to school, Bob must also face Russian baddies hatching a petroleum plot, George Lopez as a mole, and, most alarmingly, CIA colleague Billy Ray Cyrus' bizarre, shellacked, middle-parted shag. Still immensely affable and eager, the aging action hero (Chan has two stunt doubles) seems not to mind the humiliation of sharing most of the movie with his exhaustingly hammy half-pint costars or unnecessary ESL cruelty: After apologizing to Cyrus' character for suspecting him in the plot, Bob is told, "Don't worry about it, buddy; chalk it up to the language barrier." The end-credits blooper reel reveals Chan blurting out, "I hate English!"

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.