After the initial success of the first Spy Kids, it certainly had the potential to grow into a “keeper” of a franchise, and this sequel just confirmed that. Most people probably like the first one better, but I like Spy Kids 2 more because it ramps up the sheer coolness to new heights and leaves out the loopy weirdness of Floop for the most part in favor of more awesome weirdness.
In many ways, this film feels like Robert Rodriguez’s melting pot, in which he threw so many seemingly random elements that somehow still came together into a coherent and entertaining adventure. There are impressive gadgets, crazy theme park rides, magnet-heads, robot bugs, sea monsters, bottomless volcanoes, a mad scientist, flying pigs, Harryhausen-esque skeletons, miniature crossbreeds, giant crossbreeds, a flying wheelchair, girl power, and even Antonio Banderas’s mustache. The part with the skeletons and mind-reading does feel rather out of place, but any movie that can manage all that so successfully is quite an achievement.
Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara do just as well here as in the first film, and Steve Buscemi balances silliness and sincerity as Romero. It’s a shame that the villainous Donnagon (Mike Judge), as well as “Uncle” Felix (Cheech Marin), show so little gratitude for the fact that the Cortezes saved them from life as Fooglies in the first film. Yet Donnagon’s two children Gary and Gertie are welcome additions to the Spy Kids lineup, as are Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalban as Ingrid Cortez’s parents. Plus, Bill Paxton looked like he was having fun in the opening scene at the amusement park.
With so much added to the franchise with this film, it’s a real shame that it degraded so quickly to Spy Kids 3-D. Journey to the Center of the Earth has many scenes clearly meant for 3-D, but it didn’t distract from the film too much. It was nice that Ricardo Montalban got more screen time, but Spy Kids 3-D was so obviously gimmicky and flimsy that its visuals and large cast could not save it from being a big disappointment for a franchise that had seemed to be getting better and better.
Even so, Spy Kids 2 stands out as another fun adventure, once again celebrating family ties. The special effects aren’t perfect but have a unique look that is sometimes reminiscent of Jason and the Argonauts. Plus, that concert at the end in which Alexa Vega sings “Isle of Dreams” is energetic, funny, and deserving of a spot in my End Credits Song Hall of Fame. Good stuff.
Best line: (Gary, and later Juni) “An agent is only as good as his gadgets.” (which is subtly disproved later on)Artistry: 5 Characters/Actors: 7 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 6 Watchability: 7 TOTAL: 40 out of 60
Next: #215 – Dances with Wolves
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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