Spy x Family Code: White fails the mission by serving every fan

I love when Spy x Family veers into slice-of-life drama. I like seeing super duper capable spy Loid Forger and lethal assassin Yor navigate mundane activities like cooking dinner or planning date nights. I’m giddy when telepathic Anya uses her powers in a dodgeball match. I’m sure there are fans that prefer the more action-heavy, spy-thriller episodes, but I like when studios Wit and Cloverworks keep it chill. With 20 episodes a season, the anime has the space to deftly balance these two tones.

Spy x Family Code: White tries to dance that dance without the same rhythm. The new movie clocks in at almost two hours, but no matter what type of Spy x Family fan you are, only one half of it will be a delight and the other will be a slog.

[Ed. note: This review contains some spoilers for Spy x Family]

Image: WIT Studio/CloverWorks

In Spy x Family Code: White, the Forger family goes on vacation to an idyllic mountain village. There is a big ulterior motive for this: Anya’s newest class assignment involves cooking a dessert, and if she bakes the best dessert, she’ll get a coveted Stella, the school’s premier academic prize. And since she needs as many Stellas as possible to secure a spot at an elite party, where her family can meet the prime minister, Loid decides the best strategy is to research the headmaster’s favorite dessert hands-on.

At the same time, the future of Operation Strix is up in the air. Loid really wants Anya to win this contest so that he can have leverage to stay on the assignment. Oh, and, thanks to a misunderstanding, Yor thinks Loid might be cheating on their (fake) marriage.

Directed by Spy x Family episode director Takashi Katagiri, the first half of the movie involves a lot of lighthearted shenanigans, with some spy stuff sprinkled in. It’s my ideal ratio. Loid, Yor, Anya, and precognitive family dog Bond traverse across this mountain village, which looks like something out of a Hallmark movie, looking for ingredients so that the chef at the restaurant can make the dessert. This, of course, also involves Loid using his spy-trained marksmanship to beat a carnival game so he can snag an elusive bottle of orange liqueur and Yor accidentally kicking Loid out of a ferris wheel car with her super strong assassin legs when he tries to kiss her.

And while the shenanigans are happening, there are also some nice threads about family and spending time with one another. Loid wants to handle everything by himself, but Yor insists that they need to do things together as a family, because that’s what will be important in the end. Anya’s worried about Operation Strix falling apart and possibly losing her family because of it.

Yor Forger, a dark-haired woman, about to fight Image: WIT Studio/CloverWorks

Loid Forger infiltrating a wine cellar Image: WIT Studio/CloverWorks

But there are hints of a larger plotline, involving the military of Ostania and some crucial piece of intel that could ignite a war. At first it’s woven into the background, but it ramps up suddenly toward the back half of the movie, and the tone shifts into heavier action and thriller mode.

Yes, there are still a bunch of funny gags (including a prolonged joke about Anya trying to hold her poop in, which is far funnier than it sounds on paper), but there’s also a lot of kicking and explosions and a whole lot of complicated made-up political issues (which in true Anime OVA fashion are resolved neatly so they won’t really affect the next season). I’m sure this is exciting for a certain type of Spy x Family fan, but I spent the second half of the movie daydreaming about what the plot could’ve been if the Forgers spent the next half hour trying to make the overly complicated dessert instead. I know there are people out there who would want the dessert plotline sped up.

As a TV show, Spy x Family expertly handles these tone changes. Having 20-plus episode seasons means a nice balance of both the sillier and the more serious episodes — and because the episodes clock in at half an hour, it never feels like too much focus on one thing. But as a movie, Spy Family Code: White can’t strike that balance. Each half of the movie represents a different aspect of Spy x Family’s appeal, and each half is quite good for what it’s supposed to be. They just don’t gel together at feature length. When the tone shifts, it locks in and doesn’t really have as much give as the show. Still, no matter what type of Spy x Family fan you are, you’ll enjoy at least half of the movie.

Spy Family Code: White is out in theaters today.


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