Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
Director : Robert Rodriguez
Screenplay : Robert Rodriguez
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Daryl Sabara (Juni Cortez), Alexa Vega (Carmen Cortez), Robert Vito (Rez), Bobby Edner (Francis), Ryan James Pinkston (Arnold), Courtney Jines (Demetra), Sylvester Stallone (Toymaker), Ricardo Montalban (Grandfather), Antonio Banderas (Gregorio Cortez), Carla Gugino (Ingrid Cortez), Holland Taylor (Grandmother), Mike Judge (Donnagon Giggles), Salma Hayek (Cesca Giggles), Matthew O'Leary (Gary Giggles), Emily Osment (Gerti Giggles)
In Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, the third Spy Kids movie in as many years, writer/director/producer/composer Robert Rodriguez places his young mini-spies in the digital depths of a zany video game, which is quite appropriate given the fact that most of the imagery in these movies have been created by computers. This time around, the story focuses particularly on 11-year-old Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara), who has retired from his spy career with the OSS, but finds himself compelled back into service when his 14-year-old sister, Carmen (Alexa Vega), disappears into cyberspace.
The dastardly villain this time around is the Toymaker, played with goofy relish by none other than Sylvester Stallone (who actually plays five different roles in the movie, three of which are alternate personalities of the Toymaker and with whom he carries on funny-bizarre conversations). The Toymaker has created Game Over, a video game that every kid in the U.S. wants and is designed to take over their minds once they reach Level 5. Carmen ventured into the video game (her mind did, anyway) in an attempt to shut it down, but she disappeared, so its up to Juni to dive into the cybernetic world, find his sister, and save the day.
Once inside the world of the video game, Spy Kids 3-D goes retro by employing old-fashioned 3-D utilizing cardboard glasses with red and blue plastic lenses. The wisdom of this is debatable, given the generally lame quality of this 3-D process (it certainly gives an illusion of depth, but the colors get washed out and it gives you a headache after about 20 minutes, especially given the manic nature of the movies pace and action). However, despite these drawbacks, using 3-D seems only appropriate for a movie series that has reveled in retro, from the cartoonish, Tex Avery-like tone of the physical gags, to the Ray Harryhausen-inspired special effects.
Yet, Spy Kids 3-D is certainly the least of the series because it continues the slide in character development that began in the second movie. Even more so this time, Juni and Carmen are more cartoon characters than real kids. The first movie worked marvelously because Rodriguez combined outlandish action-adventure with characters who felt and acted like real kids. Here, Juni and Carmen are given short shrift in the character department. At most, we get to see Juni debating his retirement from the OSS because he felt used, but that hardly qualifies as meaningful character development.
The movie also suffers from the fact that, until the climax, there is almost no interaction among the members of the Cortez spy family. Juni and Carmens grandfather (the always pleasurable Ricardo Montalban) is the only other family member who has a significant stake in the action as he, too, is pulled into the video game and threatens to upend Junis mission by releasing the Toymaker from cyberspace so he can exact revenge on him in the real world (apparently, they have a history together).
Alas, for most of the first two-thirds of the movie, Juni is the only member of the Cortez family on-screen, although he teams up with a threesome of teenage beta testers (Robert Vito, Bobby Edner, Ryan James Pinkston) who are also playing the game and have mixed feelings about helping him since Juni presents competition. While Carmen got a whiff of romance in the second movie, Juni gets his own potential on-screen squeeze in the form of a girl player named Demetra (Courtney Jines), and some of their interactions have a sweet preteen romantic cuteness. And, just for good measure, Rodriguez is sure to include plenty of bit roles for celebrity actors who are a by-now familiar part of the series, including George Clooney, Salma Hayek, Mike Judge, Alan Cumming, and Cheech Marin (there is also an amusing appearance by an actor who played a certain hobbit in Lord of the Rings).
But, as with the first two movies, Spy Kids 3-D is primarily about whacked-out action sequences, and given that it takes place inside a video game, one can be assured there will be plenty of it. There are giant frogs with tongues that leap out from the screen at you, a gladiator-style duel on the moon with skyscraper-tall robots, and a cycle race that seems intent on making the pod race in Star Wars: Episode IThe Phantom Menace look like a lazy Sunday drive. Its all well doneat this point, Rodriguez can choreograph manic action in his sleepbut it never quite reaches the sublime heights of mania attained by the first two movies. I wouldnt exactly say its game over for this series, but it looks pretty close.
Copyright © 2003 James Kendrick