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‘Spy x Family Code: White’ Review: Espionage and Culinary Adventure Collide in an Amusing Anime Spinoff

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Spy x Family Code: White” is a fun, accessible jumping-on point for anyone unfamiliar with the “Spy x Family” anime, or the manga on which it’s based. However, in slowing down to let newcomers catch up, it tends to lack momentum. The plot isn’t strictly tied to the the comic or the show’s two seasons (it’s yet to be renewed for a third), but it picks up with the same basic premise: a found family with secret lives and abilities, which they keep guarded from one another, while a non-specific political conflict looms on the horizon.

Released theatrically in both dubbed and subtitled versions, the standalone film plays like an extended filler episode of a sitcom steeped in verbal misunderstandings, though that isn’t always a bad thing. The lead trio in this “Three’s Company” dynamic — papa spy Loid Forger (Takuya Eguchi), his secret assassin wife Yor (Saori Hayami) and their adopted telepathic four-year-old Anya (Atsumi Tanezaki) — have been pretending to be a family for so long that the ruse has begun to feel real. The counterfeit couple keeps their respective secrets close to their chests, but Anya can read their minds, and with the help of her fluffy, soothsaying Saint Bernard, she can spot trouble at a distance.

How did this strange faux family come to be? That’s all part of Loid’s spycraft too. The show’s first episode (available on Crunchyroll) lays this out pretty well, but the movie has enough expository voiceover to explain that Loid’s long-term target has a son at an elite private school, and part of his plan involves adopting a child and enrolling her at that same institution. It sounds almost evil, but Anya — who wears cat ears, and bounces around each scene with adorable energy — couldn’t care less about being a pawn so long as she has a home.

It’s turn-your-brain-off entertainment epitomized. Scrutinizing its premise for even a minute makes things awkward at best. The series’ setting is vaguely Europe-inspired and takes its design cues from World War II and its story beats from the Cold War. Loid’s mission involves preventing a conflict between nebulous eastern and western blocks from breaking out, but beyond these political broad strokes, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s best not to think about it further.

In fact, while the dangers of this conflict brew in the background, Loid, Yor and Anya set off on an mostly unrelated, much more whimsical adventure that feels only tangentially connected to the larger conflict (and doesn’t actually collide with it until nearly an hour in). In order to help Anya get closer to her target classmate, Loid plans to help her win a baking competition at school, for which he suggests making a famous, tart-like dessert native to a snowy, Swiss-inspired region. He has covert reasons for wanting to travel there, but the confectionary contest ends up being a good excuse to keep the family together for most of the film.

Director Takashi Katagiri, who also helmed the show’s second season, takes a farcical approach to this unserious plot set against a deathly serious backdrop. Scenes of grocery shopping at a winter market arrive with the bustling intensity of a reconnaissance mission, while lists of ingredients are handled and presented with all the pomp and circumstance of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Before long, an overtly fascist military leader crosses paths with the family and not only steals their fancy dessert, but secretly threatens to plunge the world into war — two consequences the movie treats with equal weight and urgency. It’s all a bit goofy, but it means to be.

“Spy x Family Code: White” is far more chuckle-worthy than laugh-out-loud funny, but there’s an innocent, adolescent charm to even its jokes that miss the mark. The big-screen budget allows Katagiri a sense of fluidity and visual freedom, so he presents action scenes in dynamic motion (compared to the show’s more static sequences). While the recurring gags rarely extend beyond poop jokes, kids in the audience will probably get a kick out of the whole affair. The film does try to be serious and sentimental at times — often to no avail — but at least it’s never boring.