The Spy Next Door
Starring: Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Billy Ray Cyrus
Director: Brian Levant
On the blooper reel that comes with The Spy Next Door's end-credits is a scene in which Jackie Chan proclaims: 'I hate English!' after he stumbles on a line. It's a remark delivered half in jest, but one is left wondering why Chan doesn't act in accordance with his antagonism and leave Hollywood for good, given the mundane material that drives his latest foray into English-language cinema.
In what is basically an update of Kindergarten Cop, Chan is Bob Ho, whose bespectacled pen-salesman persona conceals his real identity as a spy on loan from the Chinese intelligence services to the CIA. As if that's not a sufficiently far-fetched premise - not to mention how he seems allowed and ready to settle in suburban America for good - Ho finds himself entangled in a romantic relationship with his neighbour Gillian (Amber Valletta). The consummation of the relationship, however, hinges on Ho endearing himself to her three obnoxious children. That's a tough task made all the more difficult because he's also fighting Russian villains trying to conquer the world in a convoluted plot involving a chemical and the world's oil supply.
To give Chan his due, some of his comic-action sequences are enjoyable, but The Spy Next Door is largely low-grade family entertainment trading on cliched melodrama, creaky acting (as much from the hammy child actors as from Chan himself) and dated caricatures (one of the running gags is a villain's tortuous efforts to find clothes which will make him 'American'). A sense of deja vu permeates the whole premise and Chan appears to struggle when delivering punchlines in, yes, English. Maybe it's time for Chan to act on his well-known nationalistic views and return to the more challenging pastures he has begun to plough with Shinjuku Incident.
The Spy Next Door opens today