I decided to watch this film because I wanted something to turn my brain off to. It was late at night, I was browsing the Netflix instant view, and I stumbled upon this film. The premise looked cute enough, and it had Annsophia Robb who is one of my favorite young actors, so I decided to give it a look. 20 minutes in, I was utterly annoyed and angry at the film.
It starts off promisingly enough, with a rather creative animated opening sequence, but once it went to live action things went downhill and fast. The film stars the reject kid from the "Cheaper by the Dozen" movies as Thomas, your generic everyday "boy who cried wolf." Thomas likes to spend his time making up elaborate lies, and scaring the ever-loving crap out of his classmates through pranks so complex that I would praise his creativity were it not for the fact that they were so stupid. The only one in school who likes him is his best friend Jackie, played by Annasophia Robb, who's in love with Thomas even though he's a total jerk who perpetually rejects her for the cute foreign girl...wow, I guess this movie does have a level of realism after all, but I digress.
The romance between Jackie and Thomas is, without question, the worst part of the movie. First off, I really hate it when children's movies think they have to put a romance in. Seriously, let's think about this for a moment. A typical children's films target audience is probably in the range of about 5-12. Now, the 5-9 year olds are still in the age where they believe in cooties, and the 10-12 year olds are, for the most part, only just starting to notice the opposite sex. Romance isn't something this age bracket looks for in a movie, so why the hell are you putting it in there? Seriously, this bothered the hell out of me when I was a kid and I saw this in movies. Furthermore, I can never believe in a romance between 12 year olds. If you want to portray it as puppy love, that's fine, but this movie actually expects it's viewers to take the relationship seriously; playing crappy love songs during supposed romantic scenes and having the always-popular single teardrop after Jackie gets rejected. Honestly, "The Notebook" wasn't this cheesy. Finally, there's no reason to root for the relationship to work out, since Thomas just isn't a very likeable character. Jackie's likeable enough, and I found myself wanting her to go off and find some other guy and forget Thomas. But that would require her to be a three-dimensional character with depth and common sense, and those are lengths this movie was clearly unwilling to go to.
Anyway though, back to the story. That foreign girl that Thomas likes wrote a paper about saving the world or something, so the president's daughter's coming to their spring dance as a form of congratulations, but Thomas hears some dude plotting to kidnap her on the day of the dance, so he tries to warn people but of course no one believes him 'cause he's a lying douche, so he tries to get Jackie's help, but she's still mad at him, but she forgives him eventually 'cause she's a slave to his hotness, he tries to be like James Bond and investigate so he can save the president's daughter, but things go wrong and blah blah blah. Honestly, after the first 40 minutes it just turns into a streak of clichés. I knew what was going to happen next every second of this movie. The basic rule of thumb I discovered is that if you're supposed to like the character, they're a good guy; if you're supposed to hate the character, they're a bad guy. The movie even admits to it's clichés through line's like "of course you're the bad guy" in the dialogue, hoping we'll forgive it's predictability if it admits to it. I didn't.
The biggest issue with the story though is the utter incompetence of every single character. For example, when the presidents daughter does inevitably get kidnapped (which really isn't that much of a spoiler since if you've read this far I imagine you have no intention of seeing the actual movie) the security agents simply let the kidnapper go, despite having several clean shots at him. I know this is a kid's movie and all, but if you're going to go through the effort to actually give them guns, you should give them a logical reason not to shoot! But it doesn't end there, they actually let the kidnapper get to the roof of the school, let him wait for a helicopter that they know is coming, without ever making any effort to, you know, do they're friggin' jobs! Is the president's daughter just that much of a bitch that they really don't give a damn what happens to her? I mean I know she's a god-awful actor, but that still doesn't seem like enough reason to let her get kidnapped.
I know anybody reading this is probably thinking "but it's a kid's movie, of course you're not going to like it." And you know what, I hate to say it, but I think my 9 year-old self would've been at least a little amused by this film (except for that romantic sub-plot, but let's not get back into that). Having said that though, that's still no excuse for this movie to be as bad as it is. Filmmakers shouldn't be allowed to make a crappy movie just because it'll keep the kids entertained, that's just shameful. And you know something, you may be able to keep a child's attention with a movie like this, but it's the good kid's movies like Free Willy, The Neverending Story, and anything from Pixar that they'll be watching again and again and hold found memories of until adulthood. I guess I'm being rather harsh on this movie, so I will admit this: most of the performances are actually quite good (particularly D.L. Hughley and Annasophia Robb). However, as good as they are, they are still bogged down by the crappiness of the script, and the familiar actors aren't as good as they were in other films. Parents looking for something to keep there kids quiet for 90 minutes will certainly find it in Spy School, but parents who are looking for something that will result in fond memories and return viewings for their children, as well as something they can enjoy with their children, better look elsewhere, because this ain't it.