Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) is a James Bond-like US secret agent, who’s facing the most challenging case of his career.
A mysterious terrorist (voiced by Ben Mendelsohn) gets his hands on the world’s most lethal drone technology as well as a classified database uncovering every US secret agent. Seeking revenge for a past incident that killed his accomplices and left him badly injured, he plans to eliminate Sterling – who led the fateful mission – and everyone else working in US intelligence. To make things worse, the villain manages to change his appearance to look like Sterling.
Unable to prove his innocence to his agency, Sterling runs and turns to Walter Becket (voiced by Tom Holland), a nerdy scientist and inventor. Some time ago, Sterling fired Becket because of Becket’s passion for developing non-violent and non-lethal spy gear and weapons.
While at Walter’s house, Sterling drinks what he thinks is a glass of water, but in fact it is Walter’s latest invention, and Sterling is shocked to find himself turned into a pigeon. Initially struggling to get used to his bird body, Sterling begins to understand and use the advantages of his appearance as an inconspicuous pigeon. He also learns to appreciate Walter’s non-violent approach, unconventional methods and unusual yet efficient inventions, which include ‘kitten glitter bombs’, ‘inflatable hugs’ and a lavender-scented ‘truth-telling serum’. The unusual duo set off to stop the villain and protect the compromised agents.
Friendship; teamwork; questioning violence; promoting kindness and understanding; embracing difference; staying true to your ideals
Spies in Disguise has frequent animated action violence. For example:
- Characters use guns, grenades, knives, tasers, batons and martial art moves.
- Characters are beaten, punched, thrown through the air, shot at, smashed into walls, attacked by drones and buried under heavy objects.
- Characters are shown dishevelled and in pain, but they’re not shown bleeding or dying.
- At least one innocent character, a scientist, is thrown off a cliff and seems not to have survived the fall.
- Both Sterling and Walter have several life-or-death situations and only just escape.
- In his pigeon form, Sterling gets heavily beaten with a computer keyboard and is thrown into a bin.
Spies in Disguise has some sexual references. For example:
- Walter’s pet pigeon Luvvy falls in love with pigeon Sterling. She rubs herself against him, coos and ruffles her feathers flirtatiously.
- One of Walter’s weapons is a gun that fires rainbow paint. It’s unclear whether he calls it ‘Fifty Shades of Gay’ or ‘Fifty Shades of Yay’.
- When he first transforms into a pigeon, one of Sterling’s hands shrinks to a tiny size. Sterling then glances into his pants and screams, suggesting that his genitals have also shrunk.
- Sterling tells Walter that he has realised that both ‘number one’ and ‘number two’ come out the same way. Walter explains that birds’ genitalia are called a ‘cloaca’. This becomes a recurring joke.
- A villain has pigeon Sterling by the neck. Thinking that pigeon Sterling is remote controlled, the villain asks how to turn it off. His hand approaches the pigeon and the look on Sterling’s face suggests the villain has pressed Sterling’s backside.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Spies in Disguise shows some use of substances. For example:
- Some Japanese villains are briefly shown consuming alcohol and gambling.
- Sterling and some other pigeons fight over a Martini.
Nudity and sexual activity
Spies in Disguise has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- A Japanese villain is surprised while having a bath. He drops the towel he has wrapped around his waist, revealing his bare backside. As he bends down to pick up the towel, Sterling’s wing covers what would be revealed.
- Walter uses a weapon on the Japanese villain. This temporarily turns the villain’s bones to rubber, and his bare backside is seen several times.
- When transforming back to his human shape, Sterling is seen topless and then realises that he’s naked.
The following products are displayed or used in Spies in Disguise: Audi.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Spies in Disguise is an action-packed, animated spy movie. High-quality animation, a gripping Mark Ronson-produced soundtrack, likeable multi-layered characters, positive character development and plenty of humorous dialogue and scenes are likely to entertain and appeal to family audiences.
Because of the movie’s frequent animated violence, sad themes and sexualised and rude humour, Spies in Disguise isn’t suitable for children under 6 years. We also recommend parental guidance is recommended for children aged 6-8.
The main messages from this movie are that violence is never the best option and that acts of kindness can go a long way. The movie also sends the message that it’s OK to be different and that it’s important to accept help and work as a team.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- using understanding and communication rather than violence to resolve conflict
- following your dreams
- being a good friend
- being kind
- helping others and accepting help
- having ideals and standards and living by them.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- bullying – for example, Walter gets bullied for being a ‘nerd’ and being ‘weird’
- resentment and vindictiveness
- fighting fire with fire, which leads to ‘everyone getting burned’.