Set in a world where superheroes are commonly known and accepted, young Will Stronghold, the son of the Commander and Jetstream, tries to find a balance between being a normal teenager and an extraordinary being.
Gregorio and Ingrid are the two greatest secret agents the world has ever known: masters of disguise, mavens of invention, able to stop wars before they even start. Working for separate countries, they are sent to eliminate their most dangerous enemy...each other. But in an exotic corner of the world when they finally come face to face, they fall in love instead and embark on the most dangerous mission they have ever faced: raising a family. Now nine years later, after their retirement, having exchanged the adventure of espionage for parenthood, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are called back in to action. When their former colleagues, the world's most formidable spies, start disappearing one by one, the Cortez's are forced to take on techno-wizard Fegan Floop and his evil, egg-headed sidekick, Minion. But when the unthinkable happens and they too disappear, unfortunately there are only two people in the world who can rescue them...their kids. Written by
Anthony Pereyra <email@example.com>
Fun for kids and their parents, good for a family movie. *** (out of four)
SPY KIDS / (2001) *** (out of four)
By Blake French:
If James Bond married another secret agent, had kids, privately continued his life as a spy, became captured, and left his rescuing to his offspring, we would have the formula for Robert Rodriguez's new action adventure, "Spy Kids." Rodriguez normally directs harsher, more brutal movies, like "Desperado" and "The Faculty," but accustoms a slick style of adventure and humor in this film that exceeds past the level of any of his recent work. "Spy Kids" really does belong in some kind of James Bond picture.
As the film's writer, director, and co producer, Rodriguez does a lot more with the material here than we expect. The film has a stunning array of special effects, ranging from walking thumbs to a particularly imaginative experience in the villain's headquarters. Even the introduction has zest and intrigue: we meet a seemingly normal family of four, consisting of Ingrid and Gregorio Cortez (Alexa Vega and Antonio Banderas), and their children, probably middle school aged, Juni and Carmen (Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega). As the movie opens, Ingrid tells her children a nice bedtime story about two daring spies assigned to kill the other, but fall in love, get married, and retire. She prepares her offspring for bed and turns the lights off, walks to her husband, and explains she thinks it would be a good idea to tell Carmen and Juni their real identities as top-secret spies; the story Ingrid enlightened her kids with was true.
Rodriguez quickly sketched his characters, but his method is surprisingly effective; the movie starts out with fast-paced action and captures our attention abruptly and does not really lose energy throughout its running time. We learn the two married spies have retired from the business nine years prior, but their fellow OSS agents are disappearing all over the world, and thinks it to be the work of a kids TV show host named Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming in a very whimsical, fitting performance) and his assistant, Minion (Tony Shalhoub). The agents have been converted into clay-like animated characters held captive at his mega tech laboratory. Imaginative and interesting, if a bit cheesy.
Ingrid and Gregorio call their "Uncle" Felix over to watch the kids while they go out on their latest mission. Unfortunately, this mission could be their last; they walk right into a trap and are snared from beneath their toes. Felix receives a distress call, sends the kids to a "safe house," but is captured himself, leaving the responsibilities to the younger members of the family.
The story isn't cheap or silly, although some of the material tests our tolerance for far-fetched science fiction. The underlying motives here are also legitimate. The movie puts confidence in strong family values, honesty, and trust, but does not preach, lecture, or on the other side of the barrel, become lost in an utter mess of silly dog poop and passing gas jokes like "See Spot Run." The movie takes itself seriously, and is well written. We understand the character's motives. "Spy Kids" gets one thing painfully right, and that is the
relationship of the brother and sister. Their relationship is all too familiar in American households, where name calling and mean-spirited behavior inhabit offspring of both sexes. The petty little conflicts they feel strained and forced, giving this movie, otherwise somewhat mature, an immature sensation. This familiar stereotype is profoundly irritating.
"Spy Kids" is often exciting, funny, and almost always entertaining. It is not the kind of movie that parents should just drop their kids off to, however, but should stay for themselves to witness some of the most effective family movie moments in quite a while. In a time when family movies are completely disposable, "Spy Kids" proves itself to stand out from all the others and provide us with a genuine spy movie experience.
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