Spies in Disguise (3 stars)

Spies in Disguise

Will Smith and Tom Holland lend their voices to a fun but derivative espionage animation

A fun animated spy caper for kids too young to see Bond movies, Spies in Disguise was inspired by a 2009 short called Pigeon: Impossible. While that was about a pigeon trapped inside a secret agent's briefcase with all its gadgets, this has a secret agent trapped inside a pigeon's body.

After an opening sequence that shows us human super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) at his suave best, taking out villains and saving the day, Lance finds himself framed by major baddie Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) and fired from his espionage job. The only way he can clear his name is with the help of inventor Walter (Tom Holland), who is the laughing stock of spy HQ for his quirky gizmos (including a Kitty Glitter bomb that unleashes – you guessed it – glitter and images of cute, wide-eyed cats to melt the hearts of bad guys).

Lance wants to catch Killian, who is after a list of all the spies' real identities and locations, but when he mistakenly takes a swig of one of Walter's inventions, Lance finds himself transformed into a pigeon. Since pigeon-Lance can't drive or hold a gun (plus a couple of great visual gags about walking into glass and being plastered on a windscreen), Walter is dragged along for the ride and the unlikely pair are soon in hot pursuit of Killian – while also on the run from Lance's fellow spies, who think he has turned treasonous.

A buddy movie, Bond spoof, body-swap comedy and action adventure all rolled into one, Spies in Disguise borrows lots of ideas and successfully tailors them to a junior audience, who will laugh at Lance's predicament and cheer as Walter gains belief in himself and helps outwit their pursuers.

Adults, meanwhile, may get restless watching the simple plot, but will enjoy the nods to their favourite genres – from the HQ hidden beneath the Washington Monument pond, to the daft gadgets and deadly drones – and appreciate the artistry of the animated backdrops, including an almost photo-real depiction of Venice.

There's a cute message, too, about embracing your weirdness, and some terrific jokes delivered by Smith and Holland, who deserve their own live-action buddy movie on the basis of their infectious animated double act.

General release from Thu 26 Dec.

Spies in Disguise

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
  • Cast: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled, Masi Oka, Carla Jimenez

Lance Sterling (Smith) is a super spy who has to team up with inventor Walter (Holland) to clear his name, but is turned into a pigeon. It’s all very derivative but good fun, with a cute message about embracing your weirdness, and Smith and Holland’s terrific double act should earn them their own live-action buddy comedy.