Spies In Disguise (2019) is a pleasant post-Christmas surprise

Tom Holland, for the second time this year, finds himself on an unexpected adventure in Venice in BlueSky’s amiable family-friendly animated action movie “Spies In Disguise”. Together with Will Smith, who seems to have rediscovered his 1990’s happy-go-lucky charm this year, the two of them take on the villainous Killian, voiced – of course – by Ben Mendelsohn. It’s also the second time this year Holland’s found himself facing off against an army of super-advanced killer drones but let’s not split hairs.

When a mission to recover an attack drone from an arms dealer goes wrong, super secret agent Lance Sterling (Will Smith) finds himself under suspicion from internal affairs after video footage appears to implicate him in the theft. Teaming up with a brilliant but awkward technician Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) he had fired, Sterling’s arrogance and impatience lead to him being transformed into a pigeon. With time running out, the pair set out to prove their innocence and stop the bad guys from taking over the world.

While Smith’s presence brings some inevitable comparisons to “Men In Black”, “Spies In Disguise” demonstrates, despite the struggles of the franchise of late, the cache the Bond franchise still has, and how deeply ingrained its iconography is in the genre. Sterling is a secret agent in the classic nineties Bond style, arrogant, smug and utterly convinced of his own invincibility, played with just the right amount of charm by Smith to keep him from being unlikeable. Holland, on the other hand, is a zanier version of the more modern Ben Wishaw-style Q and the two create a sparky camaraderie as they career through their avian adventure.

While unlikely to be troubling the titans of the genre when it comes to awards season, the animation is colourful, bright and appealing, with decent character design and a neat line in action set pieces. The script, likewise, is witty enough to keep the movie moving along despite a story which doesn’t have much in the way of original ideas, although the finale in which the ‘goodies’ only deploy non-lethal devices is a fun spin on an age-old showdown.

It may have been dumped in the post-Christmas wasteland in the hope of scooping up some of that sweet, sweet school holiday box office money but it’s much better than its release date suggests and certainly, of the two kid-friendly releases this week, this definitely has the edge over “Playing With Fire”.