Review in a Hurry: Someone must have told Jackie Chan that part of being a Hollywood action star is that you eventually have to do a family movie in which precocious kids make you appear totally hapless. Somebody evidently forgot to inform him that you should probably hold out for one that's better than this.
The Bigger Picture: Never mind Chan, this is a comedown for even director Brian Levant, who's no noob in the sucky filmography department (Snow Dogs, Problem Child 2). Levant's smart enough to open with a montage of footage from some of Chan's older films, thereby trading on audience goodwill for a moment or two. But then the real movie begins, and it depicts our hero (who's named Bob Ho, tee hee) as a spy living in a suburban secret identity, under Clark Kent glasses and dorky façade. He has a romance going with single-mom-next-door Gillian (Amber Valletta), but her kids hate him.
Things get wacky when Gillian has to leave town and Bob volunteers to watch the kids. They prove a handful, so Bob installs surveillance equipment and spy weaponry to keep them in line. Charming. Don't try this at home, parents.
When Levant actually has the sense to pull back the camera and just let Chan be Chan for a few fight sequences, The Spy Next Door manages to entertain well enough, even if some of these moments are rather blatant—and pale—imitations of his signature moves from older movies. And as lame as the kid stuff is, at least obvious gross-out humor is eschewed.
Still, when it comes to American partners for Chan, we've gone from Chris Tucker to Owen Wilson to Billy Ray Cyrus in a hairdo that resembles "the Rachel," circa 1994? He's not terrible, but considering that his character hates being caricatured as a hick, it seems ironic that all he gets to do is spin faux-country witticisms like, "He's so twisted he could eat nails and poop corkscrews."
If you're a religious fundamentalist with a curiosity about martial arts but a nagging fear that such movies are family unfriendly, you are the target demographic. Otherwise, literally anything else starring Chan is a better bet.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Brooding 13-year-old Madeline Carroll (Resident Evil: Extinction) may have a decent future in acting if she can get some better projects.
There's so much else to see, too—have a look in our Totally New Releases gallery!