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Robert Rodriguez, director of 'Desperado' and 'The Faculty' lends his unique
vision to a kid's film. 'Spy Kids' is about two children who discover that
their parents are spies, and have to learn to become ones themselves in
order to save them. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino star as the parents,
but it is the kids who get more screen time (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara).
Alan Cummings does a decent job, and other interesting stars are in this
film including Robert Patrick, Cheech Marin, Teri Hatcherm, Tony Shaloub and
a very cool cameo which I won't spoil.
Unfortunately, 'Spy Kids', though entertaining, feels artificial and the kids themselves are underdeveloped. It is evident of a Spanish unusual flavour to this film which was different, and although the visual effects and characters were decent, I just wasn't fully buying into this world. I'm still going to see the sequel, but 'Spy Kids' certainly isn't the best kid's film of 2001 and is far from the Best Rodriguez film either.
*** out of *****!
especially for kids. I thought this movie was fun and cute. I really liked
how the kids got to be the heros. All the neat "James Bond" type gadgets
were cool. The special effects were pretty good too. And there were some
laughs throughout. Alan Cumming makes a great funny villian.
FINAL VERDICT: This is much better than a made for TV Disney movie. It's entertaining with a lot of neat gadgets. I'd say it's worth watching.
In his fifth feature, Robert Rodriguez really sticks to his cinematic guns. While doing press for Desperado, Rodriguez claimed he was trying to create a hero for the Hispanic and Latino community, akin to Chow Yun Fat in John Woo's movies. He accomplishes this and much more in Spy Kids, and refreshingly without any of the Pc hang-ups that his predecessors and contemporaries often fall victims to. You'll find no lamentations on the racial condition here, just a family of crime fighters who just happen to be Hispanic, and a story that just happens to take place in Spain. Having long since proven himself a more than capable director, Rodriguez stretches his storytelling muscles in the unfamiliar arena of a children's film. Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are retired spy parents to their precocious children Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara). Although wowed by their mother's bedtime stories, which recount unbeknownst to the kids, the adventures of the Spy Parents, Carmen and Juni find their parents boring, and suffer from the usual problems that plague children. Carmen is the bossy older sister who `just wants out of this family' (indeed everyone has a bone to pick with another family member) and pokes fun at her brothers perpetual state of fright. Juni is the younger brother with his head in the clouds, shy with imaginary friends, and a hand full of warts. Juni's only real interest seems to be in the children's show Floog's Fooblies. Gregorio's secretive ways are blown when he and Ingrid are called back into duty to help locate several kidnapped spies. When the aforementioned Floog, who'd been mutating the spies into Fooblies, captures them the kids are awakened to their parents' past and forced to save them. In a nutshell this is the plot of Spy Kids, but what's the most enjoyable (and what should be in all adventure stories of this kind) is the trip getting there. Once introduced to their spy lineage by their ''fake' uncle (Cheech Marin), Carmen and Juni are meant to make sense of the various spy gadgets their parents own, as well as piecing together a plan to save their parents, not to mention who to trust while doing so. Their journey takes them to San Diablo, where they meet their estranged real uncle Machete (Danny Trejo), who is a master spy gadget maker, through the ocean in a submarine, and finally to Floog's island. What allows Spy Kids to truly call itself a `family film', is that as Carmen and Juni's journey progresses, so does their understanding and appreciation of family. What makes such a clichéd moral bearable, not to mention fresh, is Rodriguez's story telling and direction. Awesome-as-usual cinematography from Guillermo Navarro, and Rodriguez's action sequences make you forget you're watching a children's movie, let alone one with a message present in every bad children's movie you've ever seen. Imagine the slow- motion-trench-coat- shots for Hong Kong action films scaled down to four-foot level. It's good to see Rodriguez and his stable of actors back on target after the Faculty. It will be good to see what they have to offer next
Robert Rodriguez has successfully gone from violent and vulgar movies (The Faculty, From Dusk Till Dawn) to this more generally appetising film...and he has done the transition well. This movie is full of special effects, spectacular cast, and some really funny moments. This one is especially for those who like the Bond films. Because of the title and the plot, I was a little hesistant about renting it. However, now I am really glad I saw it. Again, 3 cheers for Robert!!!!
The reason it tastes so sour is that it consists almost entirely of what Robert Rodriguez thought children would like to see, leavened with what he thought they ought to hear. It stinks of market research. I admire the cleverness and I could easily have relished the story, but it's all so forced and joyless. We know that Alex and Junie will run rings around their parents, not because their parents are the kind to have rings run around them (they're not), but because it's a kids' movie, and that's what kids like. We know that Junie will prove to be as competent as Alex, not because we sense him to have any latent strength or intelligence (we don't), but because if he didn't then young boys would presumably have nobody to root for. It doesn't matter if children really are as venal and unimaginative as Rodriguez assumes. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that most children were. That's no excuse. Rodriguez's responsibility was not to babysit these children for an hour and a half, but to make a good film. He's clearly talented enough to have done so. He even had the right material to make a good film that, most likely, children would have loved (such things happen from time to time). But instead he made a kids' film; a good kids' film, to be sure, but it's a mistake to assume that a good kids' film is, or can be, a good film.
I rarely really *like* current movies made for kids, but this one was a real dog. The sets were cheesy without even having a fun comic-book look about them -- they just looked like junk left over from some episode of The Bionic Woman. I hope the kids in this movie got paid more than the adults, because their acting was a helluva lot better. The story and the *feeling* was ragged throughout. Rent it for your kids -- there's nothing in it that'll freak out anyone over 8 years old -- but don't make yourself sit through it.
"Spy Kids" seems like a strange choice for director Robert Rodriguez. After
all he is best known for bloody movies like "Desperado" and "From Dusk Till
Dawn." However, upon closer examination, one realizes that despite his new
"family friendly" approach, his basic style hasn't changed. Faithful viewers
will remember that "From Dusk Till Dawn" was never meant to be taken
seriously for a moment. No matter how gruesome it was, it was clearly made
"just for fun," in the tradition of "Evil Dead."
This is his most blatantly cartoonish film yet, one which gleefully throws all credibility to the winds. With Rodriguez, questions of credibility are a nonissue. The only real concern is, "is this funny and entertaining?" In this case it certainly is. It's much better than most of the so-called "family movies" out there today. It breezes through its short running time with few lags.
Newcomer Alexa Vega is engaging as Carmen; even at this age she has a great deal of spunk and charisma. We should look forward to seeing her future work, I hope she succeeds as an actress. Likewise, Alan Cumming makes a fun antihero, suspiciously reminiscent of Willy Wonka.
*** (out of ****)
Released by Dimension Films
The movie begins with Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega) requesting her mom Ingrid (Carla Gugino) to tell her favorite bedtime story, "The Two Spies That Fell In Love". Little does she know that is the story of her mom and dad met and married. Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid had retired from being spies, and become consultants. Or are they? But when members of a spy business starts disappearing, Gregorio accepts the mission and he and his wife leaves, and leaves thier "so called" Uncle Felix to watch Carmen and her younger brother Juni (Daryl Sabara). But when thier parents are kidnappped by a evil man (Tony Shalhoub) and a children's show host named Floop (Alan Cumming from Annie, and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas). It is up to Carmen and Juni to save thier parents and the world from Floop and his inventions called Spy Kids and Thumb-Thumbs. But they got to learn to trust and respect each other.
It's a bit absurd for an adult to critique a film like
The Spy Kids DVD was entertaining, imaginative, and didn't take itself
seriously. It seemed a bit of Pee Wee's Playhouse and Austin Powers rolled
into one, but without any innuendo. 7/10
I can certainly understand why `Spy Kids' has been such an enormous hit with
children. What is childhood fantasy, after all, but an attempt by
essentially powerless youngsters to bring a little order to their world, to
show themselves and the adults around them that they too are good for
something even if it's only saving the world from the forces of evil
before it's time to come in to face chores, homework and bedtime. Of
course, children merely mimic the fantasies adults themselves indulge in
utilizing the same set of conventions that serve as the template for
virtually all action/adventure films that have featured heroes on the order
of James Bond, Rambo, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his various fictional
guises. In many ways, the films featuring those characters demonstrate that
many of us have still not outgrown the simplistic view of the world that
fuels our earliest fantasies. By making the heroes of this film
specifically children, `Spy Kids' fulfills that need children have to feel
that they too can be an active part of a power-conferring fantasy rather
than just the passive observers they usually end up being in a real world
controlled by adult concepts and adult rules.
Fair enough. What I don't understand, though, is why adults seem to be so enamored of `Spy Kids,' which, for all its hullabaloo and hubbub, is really little more than a juvenile version of the same spy spoof nonsense that has been a staple of filmmaking since the 1960's (nicely resurrected by the `Austin Powers' films a few years back). Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino star as Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez, two dashing former spies who have traded in the exciting world of field espionage for less glamorous `desk jobs' in the spy organization so that they can raise their two children, Carmen and Juni, in a more normal, less hectic and less dangerous environment. Carmen and Juni, unaware of their parents' past, look upon them as two hopelessly nerdy representatives of an `uncool' older generation. When Gregorio and Ingrid decide, after nine years out of commission, to get back into the secret agent business, they discover that some of their espionage skills have become a little rusty and they are instantly caught and imprisoned by a mad children's show producer bent on creating a race of indestructible children robots. When Carmen and Juni discover the truth of their parents' identities and predicament, the two youngsters set off on a mission to singlehandedly rescue them from a fate worse than death.
One of the problems with `Spy Kids' is that it seems to mistake frenetic activity for humor and wit. Through long stretches of the film, we are being hurtled through space in one imaginary vehicle after another as the children search desperately for their kidnapped parents. There is, moreover, an awful lot of frantic running around by the various characters, but the result is, oddly, not excitement but rather tedium. Because writer/director Robert Rodriguez has failed to provide any truly clever dialogue, he has been forced to rely far too heavily on the special effects to carry the day. The result is that we are never particularly captivated by the antics either of the children or of the parents, who, I hasten to note, actually spend most of their time off screen. When they are on screen, they often come across as arch, self conscious and cutesy, rather than smooth, suave and witty. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, as the two children, are unremarkable but relatively likable screen presences. At least they are not as cloying as their parents.
The art director, set decorator and production designer deserve mention for their superb work in creating a never-never land world caught somewhere between reality and fantasy, perfectly suitable for a film built on childhood imaginings. It's too bad that the screenplay fails to consistently match that level of creativity. Stand by for the inevitable sequel!
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