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Among movies targeting younger audiences, Spies in Disguise doesn’t stand out. Sure, it’s action-packed like Despicable Me, but not half as clever or funny. The new animated film does succeed in reinforcing the modern reorientation of gender roles. Viewers won’t need a secret decoder ring to decipher the film’s message: Boy power is all hugs and glitter.
The story revolves around hotshot agent Lance Sterling (voiced with swagger by Will Smith). Villains are trying to kill the spy agency’s agents and frame Sterling for the crime. It won’t be easy for him to prove his loyalty: For one thing, he’s paired with tech specialist Walter (Tom Holland), who believes he can “save the world with a hug.”
“There’s no good guys or bad guys,” Walter chides. “There’s people.”
Sterling prefers weapons that match his enemies’ lethal power, but young Walter has fashioned grenades that explode into clouds of smile-inducing glitter and colorful “50 Shades of Yay” fountains.
Another hurdle: One of Walter’s scientific experiments transforms Sterling into a pigeon. Being a pigeon is a good disguise but makes Sterling dependent on others. He learns the value of teamwork.
Sterling must also stay one step ahead of Internal Affairs agent Marcy Kappel (Rashida Jones). The film’s three authority figures are all women: Marcy, the agency’s director (Reba McEntire), and Walter’s police-officer single mom. Nothing un-Biblical there, but the same can’t be said for multiple full-length shots (in a kids movie) of a man’s bare backside. Arousing children’s curiosity for adult sexuality used to be called grooming. (Officially, the film is rated PG for action, violence, and rude humor.) Two sweater-clad male characters embrace fondly throughout the film.
Boys today are buying into “glitter” just as little Lone Rangers in the 1950s blazed cap guns and just as mini pro wrestlers in the 1980s “suplexed” off the backs of sofas. God made us in His image, so we are imitators by design. Sadly, instead of following Christ’s example, too often we accept a Hollywood imposter.