The Critics Are Crazy For The Spy Next Door!

January is Dud Season, that most fertile of Hollywood harvests for folks who'll literally watch anything. But while the would-be sophisticated, romantic pleasures of screeching bombs like Leap Year yield a proportionate bumper crop of critical malice, is it really fair to hold the tossed-off Jackie Chan family film The Spy Next Door to the same rigorous standards? Apparently so!

Spy is officially Rotten Tomatoes' worst-reviewed movie of the young year, setting up to conquer last place in 2010 with such zingy feedback as "Duller than a Monday night at the cobweb museum..." (Kyle Smith), "The Spy Next Door follows [director] Brian Levant's long track record of pandering, PG-rated family comedies that look like bad TV" (Scott Tobias) and "The fight sequences (with obvious doubles) are anemic, and Chan's traditional outtakes over the closing credits wear pitifully thin" (Andrea Gronvall).

Withering! But come on. As long as no one under age 10 is offended, than life is good for Lionsgate. Fellow critics: This is why studios don't screen their movies for us. This is why our ranks are thinning. It's the hammer and the fly, every time, and readers are over it. Is there really a review of this film that should read longer than: "If you have young kids and nothing to do this weekend, then this'll kill two hours without much trouble. Suck it up and go"?

Yes, pandering is bad. Lazy writing and directing is bad. Hollywood (and Jackie Chan, presumably) could always do better. But we, too, can do better than piling on for its own sake. I mean, simply signing off with a one-star rating after calling Jackie Chan old? Why even bother attending in the first place? Some of this hate is just as cheap and lazy as anything Chan and Levant put onscreen. Nobody wins.

That said: 6 percent! Expect Armond White's trenchant defense in 5... 4... 3...

· The Spy Next Door [Rotten Tomatoes]


  • Completely agree. As a critic I do find it hard to judge films aimed at the kiddies. For "Spy," I found a few humorous one-liners and a couple of cleverly staged fight moments. Nothing more.
    And Chan, despite getting pinned by the English language time and time again, is a very likable actor and a fine choice for this kind of film.

  • Scott Tobias says:

    Stu, you're a chum and I love ya, but I don't know what you're on about here. Whether or not a studio chooses to screen a movie for me should obviously not have any impact on how I go about writing a review; I'll happily let them do their own calculations as to what makes sense to screen and what doesn't. And while I always refrain from the sort of consumer guide-ism you seem to advocate (e.g. "If you have young kids and nothing to do this weekend, then this’ll kill two hours without much trouble. Suck it up and go”), I'm also careful to review a movie on its own (in this case, exceedingly modest) terms. And THE SPY NEXT DOOR, no matter how low you set the bar, does not succeed as the family-friendly action-comedy it sets out to be. Why shouldn't I say as much in the review? Is the line of mine you quote above really that over-the-line?

  • Daft Clown says:

    Jackie Chan: enough! Seriously!