Opening 26 Dec 2019
Walter Beckett is a small boy who invents gadgets. His mother, a police officer, supports him in his hobby and tells him that she will “always be there for him” and he shouldn’t be upset that his schoolmates call him a “spinner.” After these first five minutes, we jump forward. Now, Walter is a nerdy, young man, working in the Washington D.C. Office of Security, inventing high-quality technical devices, after having graduated from MIT at age 15. He insists that “glitter” offers exceptional possibilities for the secure capture of spies. Lance Sterling, a professional investigator for this Washington D.C. office, shines in the praise of his constituents after, once again, defeating sinister adversaries. He says, “I work solo.” That is until he comes up against Killian, a gangster who uses his robot hand to direct flying backup drones. He can also change his facial characteristics to match those of Lance, which causes confusion and false accusations. Lance turns to Walter for advanced technical assistance. Walter suggests a partnership, which Lance rejects – that is, until he drinks a potion by mistake and turns into a pigeon. He’s a very cute pigeon, loved by three other birds. He admits that being a pigeon tops any other possible camouflage, but will require a partner after all. So Walter and Lance take off to save the world. Walter continues to apply his talent for invention in time of desperation (at the same time working to turn Lance back into a human being). Lance finds adjusting to his new personality frustrating; he can’t even learn to fly. They travel by ship and plane to a laboratory in the North Sea, then Playa de Carmen in Mexico and then to Venice (where pigeons fill the marketplace).
Contrary to any expectations, this film was a wonderful surprise. The colorful, animated figures, all extremely skinny, except one fat adversary called Kimura, go along full steam for the whole 90 minutes, accompanied by 16 fast-moving songs. There is quick dialog, full of technical terms, definitely beyond my understanding, but not a problem; the goal is to be aware that these are complicated, crime-fighting techniques. I would recommend Spies in Disguise for anyone over eight years old; boys might identify more easily to the plot, although the head of the Office of Security is a tough young lady named Marcy. Naturally, there is a lesson to be learned and it’s all about friendship. (Becky Tan)