Real Spies... only smaller
review by Darth Buzz
Notes: The picture is in anamorphic widescreen with an 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it look just fine. The colors especially in Floop's castle are bright and vibrant, and I didn't see much in the way of artifacting. Great picture. The sound is great too with a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. The extras is where this disk takes a big hit. You get a teaser trailer and you get a theatrical trailer... that's it. The word is out too that there will be a Special Edition DVD out soon, so if extras are vital to you just wait a few more months. I might sell my current one if the Special Edition looks good enough, but for me the important thing is always the picture and the sound. I would, in all likelihood, only watch the extras only once.
SCORE: 3½ Stars
Spy Kids is a big budget guilty pleasure. I call Spy Kids a guilty pleasure because the film is unabashedly goofy. Only half of the gags work, but the other half gave me the giggles. This is the kind of movie where five hundred robot children roll along a conveyor belt where a mechanical arm inserts tiny brains in their craniums. I only mention this because the scene doesn't feel out of place with the rest of the film. Spy Kids is better than any James Bond film. In fact, it may be the best tongue in cheek spy film ever made.
Spy Kids was directed by San Antonio native Robert Rodriguez. He was "discovered" by critics with his $10,000 1992 film El Mariachi. From there, Rodriguez hooked up creatively with Quentin Tarentino and directed a string of disasters including Desperado, Four Rooms and From Dusk Till Dawn.
After these disappointments, Rodriguez managed to sell Spy Kids to Dimension Films. I'm not sure who deserves more credit: Rodriguez for producing, directing and writing, or Dimension Films for bankrolling the picture. If you think about it, Spy Kids has a lot of hurdles to overcome. First of all, there's the title. Does anyone above the age of fourteen want to see a picture called "Spy Kids?" Can Rodriguez (known for his exploitation pictures) create a family movie? Am I alone, or does co-star Antonio Bandorkus make you want to "run away" (Monty Python style).
Then, the film was released. An amazing thing happened. Critics loved it. Roger Ebert gave the film four stars. The New York Times, the L.A. Times, the Hollywood Reporter and the Dallas Morning News followed suite. Spy Kids also got good word of mouth with audiences and scored $100,000,000 after six weeks.
Ergo, I felt obliged to see the movie. I needn't have worried. My concerns were squashed one by one. Spy Kids is aptly named. The movie is for kids and about kids, but it's also a great film in the spy genre. When people go see a James Bond film, they usually look for two things:
1) Sexy Bond and sexy Bond girls.
2) Q's spy gadgets.
Rodriguez doesn't shy away from either of these "must" ingredients. As the parents of the "Spy Kids," Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino have plenty of chemistry (not obvious to the kiddies) as former secret agents with just a little bit of rust. For the first time, I didn't mind Banderas. And, Gugino has a lot of fun in a role where she mostly dresses down, but is definitely a "hot mom" in disguise. As for the spy gadgets, Bond would use his "license to kill" to get his hands on Rodriguez's creations.
What do I say about the kids themselves? They're fantastic. Bravo. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara are equal parts funny, assertive, clueless, vulnerable, nerdy and cool.
The plot of Spy Kids isn't as fun as the characters. Rodriguez has created a slew of heroes, false heroes, villains, false villains and cronies. Particularly, I liked the cronies. They are purely imaginative mutations like the creatures made entirely of thumbs.
Spy Kids is a family film. I mean that in the true sense of the phrase. Adults and kids can enjoy it equally on their own levels. There's no bad language, no intense violence and no gratuitous sex. Normally, I don't comment on these matters, but Spy Kids is an exception because it has a good message about families and deserves to be seen by a wide audience.
The Jurassic One hits the nail on the head with this film. Spy Kids rocks! I would argue though that with
today's movie budgets, Spy Kids is actually a smaller budget film. (35 million) The look of the film
doesn't suffer at all though for this restriction of budget, and I might argue that the film looks better in the long run because of the restriction. Some of the FX in the film come
across as gimmicky and that helps add to the look and feel of the film. This is one instance where the less slick FX look better.