I'll be the first to say, I actually had some pretty high hopes for this movie. Sure, the premise may raise a few eyebrows. After all, "Will Smith is turned into a pigeon by Tom Holland" isn't exactly an easy film logline to digest. From this description, the film takes on a strange tone, but I was actually getting excited for the movie. After all, Will Smith and Tom Holland are very fun actors. The animation in the trailers looked extremely impressive and full of beautifully choregraphed action. The character designs were fun to look at and the concept of spies is usually very fun to play with in terms of storytelling. With all of this in mind, I was getting a bit excited for the release of "Spies in Disguise."
So, with this expectation, I went to the movie theater and sat down to watch this animated, pigeon spy movie. What did I get out of it? Well, in this animation fan's humble opinion, the result was an overall mixed bag.
I always like to talk about the good of a film before I move on into criticisms. Overall, I really enjoyed the visual aspect of this movie. The animation, especially when it focuses on the action of the spy narrative, is very nice to look at in the end. The action, like mentioned earlier, is well choreographed and had that cartoony flair that kept an animation fan like me entertained. On top of this, the character designs are very fun and pleasing. I am honestly still chuckling at the fact that the main characters resemble their voice actors so closely. Overall, with wonderful animation timing, design, and textures, we are presented with a very lovely animated movie.
Another thing that was nice about the movie was the pigeons. They just ad some fun designs and they provided themselves to be fun and vibrant characters. It's kind of funny that one can be so invested in the actions of the characters in the movie that have no real speaking lines. However, that doesn't mean that the other characters aren't endearing. I like the direction the mentor/parental relationship of the two main characters was heading and the movie has us wanting to root for Tom Holland's character at minute one. Having such strong personalities on the screen was definitely to this movie's advantage.
Now, I also really like the direction of the message in the film. This film seems to respond to the typical "should we fight fire with fire" and the result seems to say "no, we definitely should not." Honestly, in a world that often feels a bit too quick to fight force with force, this message is refreshing to hear. Life is often lived in harsh contention and the message of the film isn't one we see onscreen very often. As a result, it was interesting to see this topic tackled by this movie and, honestly, a bit refreshing to see as well. It's a message that definitely has its merits and the idea of deescalating a scenario instead of escalating it in an animated film is a bit nice to witness onscreen.
With these positives also comes a bit of criticism and for me, that primarily stems from the pacing of the story. The story has a nice premise and could really work out, but the pacing delivered was just a little all over the place. The story felt like everything was happening at double time without giving the characters a chance to catch up. The characters and their development felt out of time with the scattered and swift nature of the plot. On top of this, the main problem or threat of the movie isn't really fleshed out as well as it could be in the end. I just feel like there could be more ties in this movie to anchor the conflict with the development of the characters. The film and its plot have potential, but it needs to be workshopped a little more to find its place.
This also applies to the villain of the movie. His backstory is interesting as it relates to the film's message and the characters, but it just wasn't explored quite enough to leave an impression. We were introduced to the villain of the movie and left him for such a long time that I honestly forgot about him until they suddenly showed him quite a bit later. He could definitely stand to be developed a little more in order to stand out or leave an impact.
Overall, I think this movie is interesting in terms of its visuals and its potential as a spy, action movie. However, I think that it could definitely benefit from a bit of reworking when it comes to how it develops/paces it characters and story.