Film Reviews: Wednesday July 23, 2003
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
Starring Daryl Sabara, Ricardo Montalban, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rated PG.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Spy Candy

A lot of fun and a smidgen of social responsibility get dumped into Robert Rodriguez’ latest Spy Kids installment.

By BRIAN ABRAMS

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Robert Rodriguez’ third installment in the prepubescent espionage franchise, is ablaze with more seizure-inducing visuals than a stoned-to-the-bah-Jesus Pokémon marathon on repeat. The entire film is set within a video game, with school-bus yellow molten lava spitting off the screen and a pod race in shades of silver, bleaching from wall to wall. Just in case the laser tag funhouse isn’t enough, SK3 is filmed digitally and in 3-D (glasses provided). No one has ever caught the likeness of Sony Playstation so well on film, and Rodriguez has made another fine addition to his celluloid comic book collection.

Really, though, who better to make a children’s adventure that plays up the same violence found in a Terminator or a Matrix but without any emotional reverb? Rodriguez keeps it simple, amusing, and without any need for explanation, and all of his usual ingredients play into SK3. The Batman cartoonish punch-and-pows (as seen in Four Rooms), the exaggerated shoot-’em-ups (Desperado), the swift and vivacious color patterns (From Dusk Till Dawn) and, of course, a ridiculous premise that we take in with open arms anyway (The Faculty).

Retired 10-year-old Junie Cortez (Daryl Sabara) returns to the O.S.S., his go-go-gadget secret family organization, to help retrieve his sister, who’s trapped in a deadly online game that is trying to take over the world. In the process, he must punish the Toy Maker, the game’s evil creator (Sylvester Stallone). Enter Tron: the Next Generation, and the kaleidoscopic action begins on Level 1. Then to Level 2. When Junie passes Level 3, his heroic missions wander off in an entirely different direction, but by this time nothing really matters. The flying colors and cracker-jack humor is so hypnotic that you’ll find yourself comfortably numb and enjoying it.

SK3 manages to achieve a Level 2 of its own: a playful farce on action heroes (Ang Lee may need to take some notes here). Stallone totally humiliates himself as the Toy Maker and his three alter-egos —a hippie Zenmaster, a hard-nosed General Patton, and Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor. George Clooney bites the bullet as the president/O.S.S. secret leader, finding himself on tele-screen with a putzy smirk begging a 10-year-old to save the day. Clearly above all is Ricardo Montalban as Junie’s handicapped grandfather. He guides Junie through the game and gets hooked on power-ups, transforming himself into a nine-foot-tall warrior in titanium crimson armor. The actors take their roles very seriously, but not in a case of desperation. Amidst all the daft Pac-Man fever, you can just sense the three big names nudging elbows and winking at one another. And rightfully so — Rodriguez pushes pure fun for everyone the whole 85 minutes.

Friendly lessons-of-the-day are in the mix as well, such as “handicaps are a state of mind” and the parent-pleasing “don’t play video games for hours.” (I was waiting for “brush your teeth before you go to bed,” but maybe that one hit the cutting-room floor.) The themes are lazily crammed in the last 20 minutes of the reel, as if the studios forgot to have a point until the end of post-production. But gimme a break. What were you expecting, Reading Rainbow?


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