In 2001, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez introduced the world to Spy Kids, a family-friendly action-comedy of big proportions featuring small actors. The film was a change in direction from Rodriguez’s earlier blood-soaked works (Mariachi Trilogy, From Dusk Till Dawn, and The Faculty). Spy Kids was targeted at children, however there are scenes and bits of humor that adults could tolerate and even appreciate. Somehow, the film spawned three sequels, one of which is currently in theaters. The first three films are now out on Blu-ray and fans of Rodriguez’s lighthearted “saga” can rejoice.
Spy Kids introduces us to the Cortez family. Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) are secret agents who work for OSS (Organization of Super Spies). They were originally assigned to kill one another but fell in love and got married instead. They had two children, Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara). When Gregorio and Ingrid are kidnapped by a twisted children’s show host, Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming), it is up to Carmen and Juni to save them.
Rodriguez certainly created a unique world in the first Spy Kids film. The characters are colorful and the sets are zany. The action is fast-paced and the humor is downright silly. Families will definitely have a good time watching this movie, however if you’re looking for wit and sophistication, look elsewhere.
The second film, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams is significantly better than the first and probably the best one of the three. In this sequel, Carmen and Juni are now seasoned OSS agents. They’re at the top of their game until faced with competition in the form of two other young agents, Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matt O’Leary and Emily Osment). The four agents go on a mission to recover an important device called “the transmooker”, which Gary and Gerti’s corrupt father Donnagan Giggles (Mike Judge) plans to use to take over the world. Their mission takes them to the island of Liki-Liki where genetically-mutated creatures created by eccentric scientist Romero (Steve Buscemi) run amok.
The story is far more interesting and the action sequences are truly a delight. The always reliable Steve Buscemi gives an amusing performance as Romero and Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara now seem comfortable in their roles as spy kids.
The third installment, Spy Kids 3D: Game Over is an absolute disgrace and solid proof that one should quit while they’re ahead. By the time this debacle was released, I’m sure Robert Rodriguez was no longer concerned with freshness or originality and that fact truly makes me sad. The story for this unmitigated disaster involves Juni venturing into a video game world to save Carmen who has been trapped in virtual reality by Sebastian the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), an evil mastermind bent on world domination. If you want to witness Sylvester Stallone destroying his career within 84 minutes of cringe-worthy celluloid, then Spy Kids 3D: Game Over is just the film to see that happen.
The Spy Kids series is a curious thing. There are moments within these movies that will excite you, captivate you and just plain make you chuckle but then again there are moments that you will wish you had never watched in the first place. I would rate this film series as lukewarm because it’s neither great nor terrible; it’s right in between. These movies are average action-comedies at best that will probably provide momentary entertainment but will eventually fade from your memory with the exception of Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. Now, that was just plain fun.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
Each of the Spy Kids Blu-rays has a plethora of meaty bonus material. The first film contains a bunch of featurettes. They include “Growing Up Spy Kids”, “Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film School”, “Ten-Minute Cooking School”. There are also featurettes that deal with the stunts and the makeup effects used in the film and lastly, there are trailers.
For Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, there is a feature-length audio commentary by Robert Rodriguez. There are featurettes: “Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film School”, “A New Kind of Stunt Kid”, “School at Big Bend National Park”, “Essential Gear: The Gadgets of Spy Kids” and “Total Access 24/7: A Day in the Life of Spy Kids“. There are lost scenes with optional director’s commentary, the “Isle of Dreams“ music video performed by Alexa Vega, behind-the-scenes montages and trailers.
The bonus features for Spy Kids 3D: Game Over are more of the same containing another feature-length audio commentary by Rodriguez, “Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film School”, Alexa Vega in concert, a making-of documentary, “The Effects of the Game” featurette, “Making Tracks with Alexa Vega”, “Surfing and Stunts (Multi-Angle)”, “Big Dink, Little Dink” and finally, there are trailers.