Spy Kids 3-D: Game
review by Dan
Lybarger, 25 July 2003
Frequently using locations not
far from his Austin, Texas home, writer-director Robert Rodriguez
offers discount budgets but still manages to pass on the thrills to
his viewers. Rodriguez’s action and kiddie films succeed because
of his enormous technical skill (he also edits, operates the camera,
writes the music and performs other tasks) and because his films are
clearly made with love.
His detractors might dismiss
Rodriguez for making only popcorn flicks, but he can’t be labeled
as a hack because his movies have a contagious passion that’s
missing from similar mainstream movies. For example, Agent
Cody Banks was made in Hollywood by some established hands, and
it’s not nearly as fun or even as visually impressive as the
weakest of Rodriguez’s Spy
Kids 3-D: Game Over, his
latest, is indeed the clumsiest of the trilogy, but he still manages
to insert just enough thrills and surprises to make the effort
worthwhile. His latest adventure for sibling agents Carmen and Juni
Cortez (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) lacks the cohesion of the first
two films while it still maintains their kitchen sink approach. This
time around a demented game designer named the Toymaker (Sylvester
Stallone) manages to capture Carmen’s brain and wants to use his
new offering to make slaves of the world’s children.
Juni enters the game (titled Game
Over) himself in order to save her in the same manner that Neo
enters the Matrix or Jeff Bridges went online in Tron.
He quickly enlists the help of his grandfather (Ricardo Montalban)
to battle the game’s numerous obstacles. Grandpa lost the use of
his legs in an accident and is maybe a little too eager to help
because the Toymaker is responsible. In the game, however, Grandpa
now has the body of a superhero to go with his wizened intellect.
The logic of Game Over is a bit
fuzzy. True, it is the work of a madman, but it would be nice if we
could figure out how Juni and the other kids he winds up enlisting
in his cause manage to advance. The adrenaline jolt of the first
movies is blunted because it’s hard to determine how dangerous
each level is.
Fortunately, nobody goes to see
these movies for plotting. On the eye-candy side, Rodriguez eagerly
explores the possibilities of shooting in 3-D. Objects fly at the
viewer at regular intervals, and Rodriguez comes up with all sorts
of cool ways to fill the “expanded screen.” We get to see races,
trips to the moon, giant robot battles and other delights. Some of
these tricks actually give the actors plenty of room to show off.
Stallone not only gets to play a bad guy, but through some nifty
makeup portrays the three consciences (a soldier, a scientist and
some type of hippie) who tell the Toymaker what to think. Stallone
approaches all four roles with a gusto that has been missing from
his work for the last few decades. It’s also a treat to see
Montalban use his urbane charm to do something other than
commercials. Even if he didn’t get those cool CGI legs, he does
project a dignity that goes hand-in-hand with his character’s new
powers. In addition, no one else can say, “Corinthian leather”
with quite the same flair.
Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino
have smaller roles as the Cortez parents in this installment, but
fans of the series will get to see all of their favorite characters
make a bow toward the end. There’s even an amusing visit from
everyone’s favorite hobbit during the second act.
The 3-D scenes are lengthy but
offer breaks so that viewers can give their eyes a break. Older
audiences might find the glasses a bit too small for comfort.
Kids 3-D also offers an
ending that’s refreshingly free of vindictiveness. In so many
films aimed at kids, the story is resolved by having the bad guy
meet some kind of hideous death (think of the fate of Scar in The
Lion King or the villains in Agent
Cody Banks). Spy Kids 3-D
concludes with a much friendlier resolution and extols teamwork over
conquest. Rodriguez gets a little heavy handed with this magnanimous
approach, but it’s a better attitude for kids than vengeance.