Rated PG for sequences of action violence and some mild rude humor, 92 minutes
Chan's still fun in the forced "The Spy Next Door"
"The Spy Next Door" opens with the classic Johnny Rivers song "Secret Agent Man," which is ironic, as there's hardly any secrets about the new Jackie Chan comedy. You get some of the same comedic highkicks and fun use of props that Chan's known for, while the rest of the sloppy film feels forced and largely unfunny.
Chan is Bob Ho, a Chinese secret agent doing some work for the CIA in the states. He lives next door to Gillian (Amber Valletta) and her three kids (Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley and Alina Foley), posing as a stodgy pen salesman. Bob and Gillian have been dating a few months, though her precocious kids don't care for him. Bob is attempting to retire from spy work to settle down and have a family, though he must assist his colleagues (Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez) in tracking down a dangerous Russian (Magnus Schving) terrorist.
"The Spy Next Door" is a sloppy, slipshod comedy built squarely around Chan's martial arts talents, which provide the film's best moments, but then even Chan himself is a little long-in-tooth (i.e. too old) for something like this. Chan is a fun performer though he essentially does some of the same moves in every one of his films - using a variety of different props - everything from bicycles to pots and pans. There's enough action and fun to keep most interested, though it's not hard to see how shoddy the rest of the film is.
The film relies too heavily on the always likable Chan to carry it, which is a bit of a mistake since he isn't a strong comedian without his props. In particular, the film has a weak supporting cast that lends little to no support to make it really funny, which is disappointing given that name performers Cyrus and comedian are so bad. Cyrus at least attempts a few funny lines (sorry, Billy Ray, this isn't Hanna Montana), but Lopez gives a take-the-money-and-run type of performance that shows in the fact he can't even hold a prop gun the correct way.
Of the kids, the most adorable is the youngest, TV actress Foley, who becomes the target of some of Chan's best gags. Chan himself isn't really a true martial arts fighter, but more of a master propsman, and he has even more fun spy gadgets that are nearly as fun as Chan himself. The lazy direction, acting and writing are never more apparent than here, and it's painfully obvious when the gag reel over the credits is funnier than the movie itself.
"The Spy Next Door" is strictly for Chan fans only, but just know this isn't one of his better films, and comedies don't get a good start for the new year.