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Chan still having fun in 'Spy' comedy

Article Published: Jan. 21, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Chan still having fun in 'Spy' comedy

"I told you Twister's no fun without the mat!" Will Shadley, Jackie Chan and Madeline Carroll star in 'The Spy Next Door.'

It's obvious martial arts master Jackie Chan, now 55, can't do all the ridiculous, downright crazy things he used to do all the time. While it was always fun to watch Chan jump off buildings and fight his way through groups of enemies, the action wasn't all the appeal because you can find great action all over the place.

But extremely funny comedy centered around martial arts spectacles - this is where Chan shines. His mastery of physical comedy has always amazed me, and it's why he has been so successful in the United States (especially for a guy who doesn't speak very good English). He can say a lot - and make you laugh big - without ever speaking a word.

So while the stunts and action are somewhat tame (by Chan's standards) in The Spy Next Door, he still knows comedy and he's still having a good time. While it's an extremely silly film that's obviously intended to be "kid friendly" and is about as original as another version of A Christmas Carol, it's still a pretty fun time at the movies.

It stars Chan as Bob Ho, an expert spy who has recently become interested in retiring and settling down after he started dating his neighbor (Amber Valletta, Hitch). Only two things stand in the way: her three kids (that don't like Bob) and some Russian bad guys who think he has stolen their secret formula that eats through oil and will help make them lots of money (as I mentioned: real silly, and that's the abridged version).

Due to an emergency, the girlfriend has to head out of town to take care of her father. In an attempt to bond with the kids, Bob offers to watch over them. Hilarity ensues.

Although the plot is generic and the twists predictable, the jokes are actually frequently clever. The middle child, Ian (Will Shadley), is quite smart (he reads a chemistry textbook for pleasure) and gets some great "geeky" comedy jokes. The youngest child, four-year-old Nora (Alina Foley), is absolutely hilarious - she makes random comments that frequently have nothing to do with what's going on, or are a four-year-old's interpretation of what's going on, and the young Foley gets some big laughs throughout the film.

The Russians are actually quite funny, too, though I'm unsure if this would offend actual Russians. So far as bad guys go, they're really stupid - overacted caricatures of bad guys from more violent Chan films - but they're actually so stupid it's funny.

The film does contain a number of painful (or "cute," as many will say) scenes involving Chan bonding with the kids, but that's to be expected in a light-hearted film about an expert spy or professional athlete dealing with kids (like The Pacifier or The Game Plan). If you hate all the fake happy emotions then know there's some of that in Spy, but director Brian Levant (who also directed the similarly-themed Are We There Yet?) does a good job of keeping the boring happy stuff short and the action moving.

My biggest issue with the film, to be honest, is just the sadness associated with seeing Chan get older. Some people are so entertaining and likable that you kind of want them to stick around forever, and I truly hope that Chan has a few more films left to star in - even if they are as goofy as The Spy Next Door.

The Spy Next Door is rated PG for language and rude humor. It is currently playing at the Regal Cinemas 7 in Boone and the Parkway Theater in West Jefferson.

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