This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
The Spy Kids franchise has been something of a phenomena, although one I’ve studiously avoided. The gimmick of the third outing being in 3D was enough to entice me into the multiplex, but the film itself pushed me to the point of running back out screaming as I went. It’s difficult to know exactly what to make of it.
The plot is one of the most glorious minimal things on the planet. Kiddy agent Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) leaves the OSS after the events of the second movie citing a betrayal from his bosses. We’re told all of this by an Ubercamp (even by his standards) Alan Cumming and his disturbingly odd sidekick in the form of a fairytale about thumbs. The strange thing is that this isn’t even close to being the strangest thing in the film. Juni’s living as a private detective, saving his dough-ray-me for the release of the newest, hottest videogame around, Game Over.
A presumably returning kid agent tries to get him to come back to the OSS, flying in through a window with helicopter pigtails. This doesn’t work but a call from President George Clooney telling him that his sister, Carmen (Alexa Vega) is stuck inside level 4 of Game Over does. The OSS are trying to shut the game down from the inside as it’s actually a secret mind control device programmed by the evil Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone). As the strange helicopter-haired girl’s mother (presumably) Cesca Giggles (Salma Hayek) explains, after a fashion, the Toymaker has been imprisoned inside Cyberspace for some reason or other. She doesn’t know why, as it was a long time ago. I can’t quite decide if this is despicably lazy storytelling or an astonishing moment of unparalleled genius. It made me laugh, anyway. If Matrix was here, he’d laugh too.
Juni is inserted into the game by Cesca and Donnagon Giggles (Mike Judge, the deranged genius behind King Of The Hill, Beavis & Butthead and Office Space) where he meets a bunch of beta testers; Rez, Arnold and Francis. Figuring it’s best to get rid of the competition for the promised unimaginable riches on completing the game, they trick Juni into bouncing himself to the moon and taking part in a giant robomech stompy battle to the death inside the arena of doom against a young lass, Demetra (Courtney Jines). Eventually winning, he returns to Earth after a brief interlude where the OSS insert Juni’s Grandfather (Ricardo Montalban) into the game to help him.
The beta tester squad now decide that Juni is ‘The Guy’, a sort of videogame Moses, fated to lead them to the promised lands of Level 5. The shower head off through a variety of familiar videogame genres, including a sequence on a game called Megarace which while not having the polish of The Phantom Menace‘s podrace sequence is certainly no less kinetic, with the added bonus of having less irritating contestants. The Toymaster at one point randomly releases Carmen from his grip for the last half hour or so for no particular reason, in keeping with much of the film’s events.
They eventually shut down the game after surfing over some lava and Frodo Baggins is killed. However, for some reason Toymaker has escaped and has giant robot monkeys stomping about the town. The only solution is for Carmen and Juni to call in all the members of the extended Spy Kids family, with seemingly everyone connected to the franchise activating their rocket boots and destroying the robots, and Granpa Montalban persuades Toymaker back to the light side of the force by forgiving him for something that never gets explains but left Gramps crippled. All’s well that ends well, huzzah.
This film presents a great metaphysical conundrum. Is it possible to have so many plot holes in something that doesn’t have a plot? That’s far too existential for me so lets lightly skip over it.
It’s a good job that nigh on everything in this movie is computer generated as otherwise the scenery would have a distinctly chewed motif. While the kids have made some attempt to be normal, given their circumstances, everyone else seems to have taken up a challenge to provide the most shockingly over-the-top performance possible. At least it shows that there are some stars in the world who don’t take themselves too seriously and are happily making edjits of themselves. Special plaudits have to go to George Clooney’s Sly Stallone impersonation and to Antonio Banderas’ surprisingly earnest portrayal of a two minute role.
The real star is Sylvester, and the selection of Theme Clones™ he’s created of himself, such as Hippy Sly, Scientist Sly and Kaiser Bill Sly. He can quite literally talk to himself in this film and the effect is, well, interesting. It’s all very, very funny for some reason that I can’t quite fathom, although I think it might be a self defence mechanism to stop my brain shutting down given the relentless assault on the senses this film provides.
It’s big gimmick is the 3D, and without any basis for comparison I can’t say if it’s any better than any other 3D film but it’s not a quantum leap in technology, I’d say. There’s a reasonable depth of field created in some scenes, and in others it far less effective. As with the rest of the films this is achieved at the expense of the colour balance but Rodriguez has done his best to select colours inside the game world that minimises this, and it’s only in the last five or ten minutes when the action spills out to the ‘real’ world that it becomes really obvious. For anyone without kids this is likely to be the only reason to see this, and it’s probably worth the cash for the novelty value.
Especially if you’ve not seen any of the other films, expect to feel like you’ve been smoking crack. Nothing is explained, things happen more or less randomly and the non-stop barrage of cameos and oddities make it difficult to concentrate on the story that’s already fragmented to the point of flying apart. this is not in any technical sense a ‘good’ film, and about the only thing it shares with other movies is that it’s shown in a cinema.
How does it compare with the other movies? Not a clue. Third party views suggest that the reason for the previous films’ success with the oldsters out there was the dynamic and relationship between Juni and Carmen, which is missing in this film due to Carmen not being in most of it. Also there is some suggestion of the Cortez family being more important both thematically and in terms of the plot, and that’s most certainly absent in this film.
Rodriguez has replaced any kind of clever writing, character development or plot coherency with the 3D effects and CG madness. This is probably not going to concern kids in the slightest, in fact they may well enjoy it more. But for adults, there’s not much to appreciate beyond the effects and the occasionally surreal and hysterically funny randomness of Stallone and co.
I’ve no idea how to rate this, it’s barely a film. It’s like playing a computer game while having your eyeballs smacked with rulers while a monkey shoots heroin into your thumb. It’s simultaneously the best, worst and most average film I’ve ever seen.