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The Spy Next Door Review

The Spy Next Door refers to Bob Ho (Jackie Chan), a square but safe next-door neighbor and boyfriend of Jillian, a single mom with three kids. She is glad to have an honest and dependable guy in her life. The kids are dead set against the relationship because he’s, well, just a big geek. When Mom needs to leave town suddenly, Bob offers to care for them, thinking it will give him a chance to make the kids like him. What no one knows is that Bob is actually an accomplished Chinese spy working with the CIA who has just worked his last job and has retired in the hopes of settling down with Jillian. The kids put Bob thru the ringer, but trouble really starts when the bad Russian guys come after Bob and the kids. Jillian breaks up with Bob when she realizes he has put her kids in danger. In the end, the kids come to his defense, the couple gets married and a new family is born.

What will appeal to a youth audience the most are the action scenes. The good guy spy, with help from the kids, fight the evil Russian baddies. There are lots of martial arts scenes but the action is almost cartoonish and we see no blood and guts. There is only scene where a bad guy gets a bloodied nose.

The heart of the film is delivered by Jackie Chan when he tells his girlfriend’s teenage daughter that family is what you make – who you love and who loves you – not just the blood that runs in your veins. It’s good advice and she grows to accept him as a potential step-father. It also helps her embrace her own family after feeling she didn’t belong.

Watching Bob trying to care for three unruly kids is truly humorous. The emotional arc of the kids letting down their defenses and allow a new man into their lives is something many kids can relate to, whether it’s happened to them or they have seen friends experience similar things.

The film is certainly derivative of other James Bond-for-kids type movies such as Spy Kids but doesn’t really add anything original or memorable. The true appeal of this film is Jackie Chan, who gracefully moves between his two identities – the super square pen salesman who lives next door, and the super cool and capable Chinese spy working with the CIA. Plus, he’s funny. That surprised us.

The siblings fight a lot and say mean things to each other but they do come around in the end. There is no profanity and sometimes Jackie Chan’s accent makes his speech difficult to understand.

KIDS FIRST! recommends this for an audience of 6-12 who will enjoy it for the humor and action.

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