Blue Sky Studios had always been behind Disney/Pixar or DreamWorks in terms of their output of computer-generated animation films. They broke into the scene with an Oscar for Best Animated Short for "Bunny" in 1998. Their first feature film "Ice Age" was a big hit in 2002, and the box office performance of the sequels proved that this franchise is their flagship.
After the last "Ice Age" film in 2016 though, there had only been "Ferdinand" in 2017, and now this new one "Spies in Disguise," their 13th project overall.
Lance Sterling was a superstar in the spy world. Always dashing and debonair in his tuxedo, Sterling can fight and beat an entire horde of bad guys all on his unique set of weaponry and skills.
After a major case of intercepting a drone-based super weapon, Sterling was framed for its hijacking. Pushed to the wall, he sought the help of a bumbling and weird young scientist Walter Beckett to help him mount a disappearance. However, Beckett's secret vanishing formula unexpectedly turned Sterling into a pigeon -- the ultimate disguise.
Based on their real-life personalities, the casting of Will Smith and Tom Holland as Sterling and Beckett respectively was spot on. The artistic rendering of these 2 main characters were clearly based on the actors who voiced them.
The 2 had perfect comic chemistry with each other as they fluidly bantered and argued back and forth with one zinger after another. I think they'd do well in a live-action version of this partnership, although Smith turning into a pigeon would be too ridiculous if it were not animated.
Rashida Jones lent her voice to Marcy, an internal affairs agent who was after the rogue Sterling, while Karen Gillan and DJ Khaled voiced Marcy's operatives Eyes and Ears, named for their special equipment.
Reba McEntire lent her country lilt to voice Joy Jenkins, Sterling's superior officer. Ben Mendelsohn gave the main antagonist Killian, the vindictive villain with a robot hand, a chilling voice.
Masi Oka (whom we first knew as Hiro on "Heroes") was the morbidly obese Katsu Kimura. He figured in one memorable sequence when his body was literally turned into jelly by one of Beckett's weird inventions.
I enjoyed how the biological peculiarities of pigeons were used to the hilt for full comic effect. Beckett enumerated a number of interesting facts about pigeons, especially about the fascinating properties of their eyes and their cloaca. While Sterling as pigeon can talk, the other pigeons who welcome him into their group don't.
There was a cute female one and two strange males -- a stupid stocky one, and a scrawny one who can eat anything. Of course, the climactic standoff with Killian was set amidst the horde of pigeons of St. Mark's Square in Venice.
The whole premise of the film was the contrast of the vastly different personalities and philosophies of Lance Sterling and Walter Beckett.
While Sterling would depend on this grenades to fight fire with fire, Beckett developed a bomb exploding with a cute kitten video with glitter.
With this premise, you can sort of already figure out the lesson the film was trying to impart to kids in the audience. Even with the G rating and silly gags, there were also some dark moments which may scare young kids. I found this movie funny and entertaining overall, and very sequel-ready.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."