WHEN IS the end of the road for movie tough guys? Some say it’s when you can see their stunt double once too often; others think it’s when they start wearing a hairpiece. But the more compelling argument is that the end is near when they start playing second fiddle to cute kids. Think The Rock in The Game Plan, Vin Diesel in The Pacifier, Burt Reynolds in Cop and a Half. Kiddie movies are often the elephant graveyards for action stars.
In The Spy Next Door, 55-yearold Jackie Chan plays Bob, the meek boyfriend of single mother Gillian (Amber Valetta, 35). Little does Gillian know that the humble pen salesman with an eye for younger women is in fact a Chinese secret agent on loan to the CIA. Just when Bob is about to hang up his gadgets and propose to Gillian, a dangerous old nemesis shows up in the form of Poldark (Magús Scheving, from TV’s LazyTown).
Despite Chan’s enthusiasm, energy and inherent charm, The Spy Next Door seems most interested in watching its star humiliated by children, leaving little time for his legendary physical comedy. It feels horribly wasteful to cast Chan and the athletic Scheving, only to have them do a small handful of fight scenes.
The film is largely a knock-off of superior properties, especially James Cameron’s True Lies and Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids trilogy. The under-five crowd might like this broad, sentimental farce, but then again you mightn’t want them to watch its slightly violent slapstick
Child’s play: Jackie Chan and buddy in The Spy Next Door