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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Spy Next Door

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


George Lopez and Jackie Chan star in a scene from the movie "The Spy Next Door."
Though generally good-hearted, and clearly aimed at family audiences, "The Spy Next Door" (Lionsgate/Relativity) -- a thin martial-arts comedy showcasing genre veteran Jackie Chan—includes scenes of hand-to-hand combat that make it unsuitable for the smallest viewers, while brief interludes of mildly risque humor further restrict its appropriate audience.

Chan plays Bob Ho, an international spy posing as a mild-mannered pen salesman. Bob is intent on retiring and living a normal life, but his plans to marry his girlfriend—and next-door neighbor—Gillian (Amber Valletta) are on hold because of the hostility of the divorcee's three kids: 14-year-old Farren (Madeline Carroll), preteen Ian (Will Shadley) and 5-year-old Nora (an endearing Alina Foley).

Taken in by Bob's cover story, the siblings have decided he's a crashing bore.

So when Gillian is called out of town by a family emergency, Bob volunteers to baby-sit, seeing this as the perfect opportunity to get to know the youngsters and win them over.

But Bob's domestic talents don't come close to his adroit secret-agent skills, leading to scenes of housekeeping mayhem reminiscent of an old "I Love Lucy" episode. And things go further awry when Bob's new charges unwittingly become entangled in his pursuit of Poldark (Magnus Scheving), a Russian master criminal bent on cornering the international petroleum market.

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and comedian George Lopez turn up as Bob's CIA colleagues.

As directed by Brian Levant, the sketchy material is mostly free of worrisome content, and charts its central character's self-sacrificing efforts to protect his temporary wards, both physically and emotionally.

But Ian, although only 12, is portrayed as an aspiring ladies' man who at one point approaches a girl many years his senior with the supposedly humorous pickup line, "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" Similarly, Farren is shown to have a fondness for short skirts and a bare midriff, fashion choices resolutely vetoed by both Gillian and Bob.

An exchange between Bob and Farren leads him to assure her that families are made up of emotional bonds, not ties of blood, a favorite Hollywood sentiment that's legitimate enough in many situations, but potentially subject to misinterpretation within the context of contemporary cultural debates.

The film contains considerable, though nongraphic, martial-arts violence, acceptability of divorce, some vaguely sexual humor and at least one crude term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Martha: Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death. 
<p>No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner. </p><p>Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.” The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “...[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a). </p><p>Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).</p> American Catholic Blog One of the difficulties we may have when our lives become unmanageable is that we find dealing with other people to be difficult and we may even struggle to maintain a relationship with God. Caring people especially can find themselves carrying unnecessary crosses as they become lost in the maze of trying to meet everyone’s crazy expectations—including their own!

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