Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spy Kids 1 - 3

Sorry moms and dads, but there aren't any advance screenings for 'Spy Kids 4', so unfortunately I can't tell you if it's worth taking the family.  But the least I can do is give you my two cents on the first three:

It's hard to make family films that are entertaining for grownups.  And normally I'm not a big fan of the 'adults relying on kids to save the world' genre.  I'm sure all kids love to fantasize about being world class spies and heroes but let's face it, they're really just less capable, less intelligent, less mature versions of adults.  (A little harsh perhaps, but let's keep it real.  They're not saving the world.)  Nevertheless, this series is actually really fun.  And it's hard not to give most of the credit to Robert Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is a true auteur, functioning as the director, writer, editor, co-producer, and even collaborating on the music and sound.  These films are clearly his vision realized.  And he couldn't have picked a better actor to help him realize that vision than long time collaborator Antonio Banderas.  They both previously worked really well together in 'Desperado' and on a great segment in the anthology film 'Four Rooms', both from 1995.  Fortunately the stylish, fast paced silliness that we got to experience all too briefly in 'Four Rooms' gets a more elongated version here.  Like in that film, Rodriguez makes use of sped up film and exaggerated sound effects to keep things light and tight.

And we also get a cavalcade of fun stars.  The first 'Spy Kids' was released in 2001 and featured Carla Gugino, Tony Shalhoub, Alan Cumming, Cheech Marin, Robert Patrick, Teri Hatcher, and Danny Trejo as Machete, a character he would revive in a trailer in Rodriguez' grindhouse film 'Planet Terror' in 2007, and then again in the eponymous film in 2010.

'Spy Kids 2' came out a year later in 2002 and featured most of the same cast as the first plus Bill Paxton, Ricardo Montalban, and Steve Buscemi.  This one is just as much fun as the first and even includes an homage to the great Ray Harryhausen films of the 60's and 70's like 'Jason and the Argonauts'.
The third film in the original trilogy was released in 2003 and added Sylvester Stallone and Salma Hayek to the cast.  And it's in 3-D.  But unfortunately it's the worst of the three.  It's not terrible, but it's just too much like watching a videogame, and if you read my review of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' or 'Tron', you know how much I don't care for that.

I really like this series.  You can just sense the fun everyone involved had making them, and even feel a part of it.  They're just light, fun films that are good for the whole family.

So will the fourth be any good?  I'm not sure.  It's been almost a decade.  And it's in 4D, which apparently means they're adding smell via scratch and sniff.  (Last I checked, smell is a sense and not a dimension, but whatever.)  Ordinarily I don't like gimmicks but this and the 3-D in the third work with the lighthearted silliness of the films.  So I'm optimistic.  But I'll let you know.  Smell ya later.

Spy Kids (2001):  A
Spy Kids 2 (2002): A-
Spy Kids 3 (2003): C+

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of the Spy Kids series. I think I even saw a few of them in theaters. Nerd alert! I didn't realize they were coming out with a fourth but I'm excited to check it out.