So this is how you make 'The Pacifier' look good: you take the tough-guy-super-spy-tackles-babysitting shtick, cut the budget in half, swap out a pet duck for a pet pig, and then replace Vin Diesel with an actor who actually has some public goodwill to lose.Thus, the once-agile Jackie Chan finds himself stuck in The Spy Next Door, a film which lifts stunt scenes from his earlier work for an opening title montage and then prove itself unworthy of such an initially impressive legacy (that’s right – The Tuxedo was more entertaining than this). His action work here is done by apparent stunt doubles and poorly hidden wire work, and the comedy factor consists of him playing putz to a truly irritating trio of aggravating kid archetypes. You have your perpetually petulant teen (Madeline Caroll, probably cashing in her Swing Vote cred for college tuition, and who can blame her?), your relentlessly geeky pre-teen (Will Shadley) and your exhaustively precocious tot (Alina Foley).
All three may go on to have tremendous acting careers, but you wouldn’t know it under the tone-deaf direction of Brian Levant (the similarly noxious Are We There Yet?). Chan doesn’t know how to make oatmeal or use oven mitts like any adult would! Foley has as much trouble pronouncing the letter ‘R’ as he does! They have a pet pig! IT’S ALL SO ADOWABLE! The antics are rounded out with a plot that involves some Russian villains so hoary on-screen that they could feasibly be held responsible for re-igniting the Cold War off-screen, while Chan gets assistance from George Lopez (also of Swing Vote fame) and an idiom-spouting Billy Ray Cyrus.
It’s the type of movie where someone get thrown out of a taxi and lands with a cymbal crash (or was it a banana peel slip sound?), and where you might find yourself saying the mawkish lines in the third act before they even come out of the actors’ mouths, and if it weren’t for Chan’s usual outtakes during the credits, there wouldn’t be a single laugh to be found in here for anyone that wants more out of their comedies than a reaction shot from a pig. However, the child actors are too young to know better, and the professional adults on both sides of the camera are too old to care; I suspect the enjoyment in any audience will be split similarly.Just do your kids a favor and introduce them instead to the Jackie Chan of, say, 'Rumble in the Bronx' while occasionally interrupting with a slide whistle. You’ll all be better off for it.