Imaginative, Inspiring: Next Door Spy

This review is part of coverage for the 2018 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Danish animated film Next Door Spy by director Karla von Bengston is a cute story of growing up and fighting to have the confidence to believe in oneself and one’s passions. Couched in a “kid in new town” setting with a splash of film noir, Next Door Spy is consistently witty and inspiring.

Next Door Spy follows the appropriately named Agatha Christine (AC for short), a girl with a love of mysteries who’s constantly playing detective to her mother’s reluctance. Her family has just recently moved to a new town in Denmark for a fresh start, but while AC sees it as the perfect opportunity to scope out new crimes, her mom (a police officer) just wants AC to be a little more “normal.” When AC learns that a local grocery has been a victim of shoplifting, she gets to work—and her prime suspect is an aloof skater boy.

The film is mostly down to earth, but is inter-spliced with black and white noir renditions of AC acting out her detective dreams. It’s an entertaining juxtaposition particularly because AC’s true love for investigation is on display. Her cherished PI’s hat and coat, along with her various makeshift gadgets, are just the right degree of “obtainable fantasy” that can inspire kids to do more yet still feel like movie magic. The mystery and non-mystery elements weave together cohesively to make all of the characters, even the adults, feel relatable.

Next Door Spy succeeds as a family film because it’s great for adults and older children looking back and younger children looking forward. Just about everyone can benefit from having a bit of AC in them.

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