Review: Will Smith spy cartoon 'Spies in Disguise' is for the birds

Will Smith voices a super spy who becomes a pigeon in so-so animated tale

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

For starters, there's only one spy in disguise in "Spies in Disguise," but let's not get ahead of ourselves.  

"Spies in Disguise" — you know, "Spy in Disguise" would have rhymed too! — is a fairly standard animated adventure perked up by its message of peace over firepower. 

Tom Holland and Will Smith voice characters in "Spies in Disguise."

Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) is a global super-spy who accidentally gets turned into a pigeon by Walter Beckett, a young inventor (voiced by "Spider-Man's" Tom Holland) who doesn't make weapons of mass destruction but rather weapons of mass distraction. They're designed to slow down or incapacitate enemies, not kill them; one of his top inventions is a glitter explosion that bursts into kitten gifs, and who doesn't stop and say "aww" when they see gifs of little kitties?    

To Walter, pigeons are perfect because they can move about undetected without raising too many eyebrows, a conceit the filmmakers just sort of want you to go along with. (Me? A pigeon starts moving around me and I notice.) 

Lance isn't too stoked to become a member of the bird family, so there's a lot of bickering over his newfound feathered status and a little too much focus on his excretory habits.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of spy stuff going on, as Walter is on the trail of a claw-handed villain who goes by Killian (voiced by Ben Mendelsohn) while internal affairs is after Lance because they suspect he's up to no good. In the midst of all this, DJ Khaled voices a character who somehow doesn't say, "we the best." 

"Spies in Disguise" is notable for its anti-violence stance but elsewhere operates like a hybrid of other animated movies you've seen, part "The Incredibles," part "The Secret Life of Pets," and 100 percent skippable. 

'Spies in Disguise'


Rated PG: for action, violence, and rude humor

Running time: 104 minutes