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This was a silly kids' adventure story but still fun the younger ones
and for adults, thanks to colorful scenes, great special effects,
decent humor and a nice family tone to it. The kids are alright, except
the girl is a little bossy, and the villains aren't too nasty. This
also looks very good on DVD.
Included in the color and characters are "the thumb people" who were especially fun to watch.
The only problem I found with it is the last 30 minutes in which it got too silly and emphasized (typical Hollywood) how the kids can do the job better than the adults, which a ludicrous film cliché. However, overall "family unity" gets a big boost in this here, even in the end, and that good message is probably a big reason this movie was such a success.
Robert Rodriguez is not the first person you'd suggest to make a children's
film. As entertaining as 'Desperado', 'The Faculty' and 'From Dusk Till
dawn' are, you wouldn't line them up alongside 'Toy Story 2' and 'The Jungle
Book' for good, old-fashioned family entertainment. Yet, as this energetic,
light-hearted Bondesque spoof proves, Rodriguez has the talent to turn his
hand to just about anything, and inject it with the suspense and adrenalin
that are his trademark.
From the gloriously OTT opening scene (which tells the story of how two agents sent to kill each other fall in love and settle down) to the last second, 'Spy Kids' doesn't miss a trick. The obligatory gizmos, mad villains and dastardly plot to take over the world are all there, along with a star cast all playing their roles with tongues firmly in cheek. The action/humour mix is extremely well-balanced too, with some hilarious visual gags sitting within a sharp script and Banderas, in particular, revels taking a sly swipe at his normal 'strong yet silent Latino' image. Yet, refreshingly for a children's film, it's never patronising, never obvious, and genuinely original in places (soldiers made of thumbs, secret agents transformed into tellytubby-type TV characters - imagine Goldeneye-meets-Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory-meets-Any Tim Burton film and you'll be close). In truth, some of the surreal moments and the more graphic effects may get a little too much for younger kids at times, but these moments are few and far between.
Ok, it's a 'U' certificate and you may well have to sit through the trailer for 'See Spot Run', but don't let that put you off. This is one of the better films you'll see this year, and the best out over Easter by quite a way. Go and have some fun.
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.
I took my two boys (7 and 10) to see Spy kids today. They were transfixed
and wanted to watch it again straightaway. Both are big James Bond fans
some of the content and dialogue of the Bond movies isn't suitable. Spy
fits the bill exactly for anyone under 13 who likes the Bond
It came over to me as a blend of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets
Home Alone meets Bond. It was at the kids level without patronizing them
was believable enough for adults to enjoy too.
All of the acting was high quality and the special effects first class.
I shall enjoy it again in the future on video but it deserves to be seen on the big screen first. Another bonus were the trailers for Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. I often come away from Cinema trips with the kids feeling that we haven't really had our moneys worth, but not today!
Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are ex-spies who were at the top of their
game until they met, married and decided to retire for their own mutual
safety. Years later they have normal lives and have children who know
nothing of any of this. When Gregorio learns of former colleagues
vanishing, he looks into it, only for him and Ingrid to be captured by
the evil Floop, whose children's television puppets are really mutants
developed as part of building a private army for Lisp. With their
parents gone and the alarm raised, Carmen and Juni learn the truth and
are suddenly faced with having to rescue their parents.
You shouldn't come to this movie expecting it to be serious or logical because it really isn't. Instead it is silly, goofy and really very daft but still quite good fun for slightly older children and also for adults. The plot is pretty much summed up by the title insofar as you really need to know what is going on because it doesn't make much sense. The film is really about the kids becoming spies and playing with gadgets etc on their way to becoming heroes of a sort. It never takes itself too seriously and it draws humour from this approach well, making it easy to relax and watch because, yes it's silly, but at least it knows it is silly. The Floop creations are too silly to appeal to adults but will probably provide some laughs for kids but generally the film gets the tone right for both groups.
Rodriguez directs with his usual approach and I quite enjoyed the effect it had here because it does suit the silly, hyper material (which he also wrote). The effects are mainly good and it should work for most kids in the way that older boys like their gadgets and fantasy video games. The cast did it for me as well, featuring as it did a lot of people who've worked with Rodriguez before. Banderas and Gugino are both sexy and cool in the parental roles but it is Vega and Sabara who lead the film. Neither of them are typically "cute kids" and it helped me enjoy the film for them to be quite natural and buy into the material. Support is surprisingly classy and most of them work. I didn't like Cumming at all but that was more to do with his character; Shalhoub was OK, Hatcher was fun, Cheech pops up briefly, Patrick has a small role, Trejo is ever reliable and George Clooney puts in a small but amusing appearance.
Overall this is not a great film because it all nonsense but then, as a kids' film, it doesn't matter so much. The energy, pace and sense of fun covers up for the daft central plot and nobody seems to be taking it seriously. Surprisingly fun to watch, even for adults and worth a look.
This was a great movie. I particularly like the fact that a normal sibling relationship was shown, the rivalry and disdain but still the reality that blood is thicker than water and no matter if you think that your brother or sister is a twerp, you still do anything for them. The family sticks together and although it is a very far-fetched concept, it was a movie both my children and I liked. It was filled with action and adventure but the good guys come out on top in the end against overwhelming odds. I think we could all use a little more optimism now and this movie delivers it. Carmen and Junie were not the impossibly perfect kids seen in most movies now. Nor were they brats who only care about themselves in other movies. They were too athletic to be real children, but I'd like to think that they are showing the kids seeing the movie that they can do anything that they put their mind to. Overall, a terrific family movie the kids will actually like-even though their parents do too.
Finally, a live-action family movie that entertained me and my wife
immensely, while my six-year old daughter had a blast too!
The most obvious (and fitting) comparison film is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Amazing fantasy world, some true menace, and a great message about being true to yourself and your family.
Spy Kids as a family movie for the post-Matrix age. It's witty, but never falls into that oh-so-hip faux-ironic self awareness that plagues so many movies today. It hands you a fantasy world, and encourages you to believe in it.
It has a great deal of action and slapstick, but (thankfully) was completely missing the mean-spirited undertones of the slapstick in Home Alone.
Like all great children's literature or entertainment, Spy Kids doesn't talk down to kids. It assumes they're intelligent and can pay attention. Having said that, there are sections of the film that are hyperkinetic, but they flow naturally.
It has something of a similar vibe to the Pixar films (Toy Story 1&2, Bugs Life), without as many in-jokes. There are some wonderful adult-only laughs, mostly stemming from the trials and tribulations of being a parent.
It's PG for a reason. It's not for the youngest moviegoer. A mature 5 or a six-year-old is about as young as I'd recommend. There are some scary moments, ala Willy Wonka, or The Wizard of Oz. But that's "good scary" in my book, as opposed to needlessly scaring folks to death.
The message of family is delightful. The Cortez family is a *real* family. They have disagreements, but they love each other. Thankfully, Rodriguez avoids the sit-com smartmouth syndrome, and gives us kids we can believe.
And I love the fact that Rodriguez never downplays the Latino heritage of the family. Hey, I'm so Anglo I'm practically translucent, but it was such a refreshing change to not have typical whitebread heroes out to save the world.
Not since Bob (Porky's) Clark pulled A Christmas Story out of his hat has a director come up with such a pleasant surprise in a genre you'd never imagine. Summary? A cup of Bond, a splash of Willy Wonka, and a dash of The Matrix. Sit back and watch the fun!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most art refers to itself in some way, but nowadays almost every film has some straightforward self-reference in the form of being about some kind of show. There must have been a very influential executive producer some time back pushing this idea for it to be so common.
The notion of these kinds of films is to create another world, so combine that with the self-reference gimmick and you have a fantasy kiddie show about a fantasy kiddie show. More, essentially all research in self-reference for decades has been in artificial intelligence, which is the device around which this plot turns. The language of AI is LISP, the name of the archvillain. In the heyday of LISP machines, the leading system was Flavors LISP Object Oriented Programming or: you guessed it -- Floop. I myself worked on a defense AI program that included the notion of a `third brain,' that is an observer living in a world different than (1) that of the world's creator, and (2) of the characters.
The third is the brain of the observer. This is also a strong element in film criticism where the camera is the third eye, the eye of the artificial narrator. The most intelligent film about the third eye spying on the action is `Snake Eyes,' where we last saw Gugino. (You may want to check my comments on that film to see what I mean.)
Even more: this is the third time Cumming has played the evil thug Gates, the others being `Titus' and `Get Carter.' The blooper of course is that Gates wouldn't know AI if it bit him (despite buying up some of the big names from the past). So having him trapped in the virtual room is apt.
The point is that there was some intelligence in this script, not all artificial.
"Spy Kids" is one heck of a movie. Never have I seen a kiddie flick come
along which is so clean, and yet still so entertaining at the same time.
This odd blend of one of the best (The Matrix) and worst (Baby Geniuses)
movies of 1999 is surprisingly exciting for something so "PG", and director
and writer Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn) manages to create loads of
fun while still keeping the violence level down.
He manages to do all this by being incredibly inventive with his special effects. "Spy Kid's" is a visual fun house of ideas which are all so playfully intuned with kids and their level of interest. He comes up with things such as movable thumb people and floors that fall apart like puzzle pieces. Rodriguez also has a lot of fun with this topic, putting in loads of high tech equipment and transportation, which offer kids and adults an incredible ride which is most always played for humor and thrills.
The basic set up for "Spy Kids" is this. Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) were both spies working for different agencies, when a "hit" put out on each other brings them closer together. They decide to put away the spy work and live normal lives as husband and wife, and soon father and mother.
But the perfect family they dream about is far from. Their kids are keeping secrets from them, a trait from their former job that they feel they have passed on to their children. Their daughter Carmen (Alexa Vega) is skipping school, while Juni (Daryl Sabara) is being bullied at school and instead of telling his parents, just makes up a couple of imaginary friends.
They see how their past lives have affected their children, but before they can correct their wrong, their past catches up with them. They are thrown back into the spy game to investigate the capture of several other spies, but only end up being captured themselves.
The culprit also just happens to be Juni's favorite televison star, Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming). Floop is after a brain prototype that Gregorio created years ago. If he can implant that into the heads of his robot and mutant henchmen, nothing can stop him from taking over the world and becoming the number one rated show on TV. But his other human henchmen Minion (played dastardly well by Tony Shalhoub) has other plans. Back home, the feuding siblings must learn to work together in order to save their parents and the world as they are tossed into the spy game as well.
It seems as if the best kids movies always have a family-like theme to them, and "Spy Kids" is no exception. Much of this movie is exciting, but then there are those other parts, which are to cuteness what Charlie's Angels was to sexy clad women. Some may accuse Rodriguez of turning corny on us all of a sudden, but luckily he is also working with some very funny material here, as well as with newcomer Daryl Sabara.
His partner Alexa Vega also comes off very strong in her role as his sister. Together they are a very good crime fighting team, and I look forward to seeing them in upcoming sequels. Alan Cumming is also very good, turning in an absent minded Willy Wonka style performance that also fits in very well with Rodriguez's style for this movie, which seems to be based largely around an amusement park surrounding a James Bond movie.
His film may be corny for older kids, but this is for the young ones and chances are you will never find a movie as decent and fun for them as this one is for a long time. Out of four stars, Spy Kids definitely scores a three.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw the ads and thought SPY KIDS looked awful. Saw the stills, thought
they looked awful (just posing the kids defensively in front of the parents,
all in a fighting stance, implies incredible irresponsibility). I kept
reading these wonderful reviews about what a delightful confection this is,
and eventually I got suckered in, thinking I didn't want to miss another
BABE or something, and the film was probably being poorly marketed to get
Well, kiddies might have a good time (though in the theater I attended, restless kids had to be told repeatedly to hush, and one child articulated in the aftermath, "I was hoping for more action"). But this is one where the adults will definitely need to shut their brains off. If you're on the fence about whether or not to check this out, I'd strongly suggest not going. It's not awful like CURLY SUE or something -- I laughed aloud once and got a couple of chuckles elsewhere -- but it is... well, it's poor. The adventure isn't manic enough, the inventions by and large not that incredible (a packet, when microwaved, becomes a McDonald's meal. Yipee!). SPOILERS AHEAD: Yeah, the thumb thumbs are kinda cool, but the villain is far too toothless. Kids' movies CAN survive real villainry and, in a way, need it: Wicked Witch of the West, anyone? And then when the villain goes soft and is revealed as NOT the villain, Villain #2 is even less frightening.
SPOILERS OVER. I guess one of the main problems is that the sense of threat is never tangible. The film has obviously been designed not to frighten children, giving no sense of real evil or malice onscreen (almost all critical physical contact happens either off camera or with simple karate flips). In cushioning every blow in this manner, SPY KIDS leaves no sense of tension, danger, or conflict. That's probably why the kids got so shifty during the screening and parents got testy; the kids saw that this emperor had no clothes -- or, more to the point, a candy colored but rather dull one-piece. 5/10
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