Many critics argue that Hollywood blockbusters often follow a set formula. That may be true, but what about the formula for mediocre movies? Combine a director with great music, an odd script taken directly from a James Bond film and moral lessons from none other than Cheech Marin (Tin Cup). Add excellent visual effects, some McDonald’s product placement and a group of decent actors, and the result is the entertaining if woefully overdone Spy Kids (Dimension).
The movie starts by following a somewhat inept father named Gregorio Cortez, played by Antonio Banderas (Evita) with his wife Ingrid, played by Carla Gugino (Snake Eyes). The two are retired spies – the best in the business – who quit the business because they wanted to have a family. But their kids are the true focus of the movie.
Alexa Vega (Dennis the Menace II) plays Carmen, an older if not wiser sister to silly but lucky brother Juni, played by Daryl Sabara (“Will and Grace”). The kids are smart and do not waste much time shedding tears when they find out in one fell swoop that their parents, who are really secret agents, have been kidnapped and their uncle is not really their uncle. They simply leap aboard a cool escape pod, hit a few buttons and get past the bad guys.
Spy Kids succeeds early on in entertaining. It is clear from the beginning that the plot is not going to require much thought and that the lines will be aimed at a fairly young, or easily amused, audience. Plenty of movie references will keep the adults happy, and more gadgetry than the film can handle is thrown in to move the action. And the point of the movie, if there is one, seems to be that spying is easy, but keeping the family together is the tough part.
Minion, an evil scientist played by Tony Sahlhoub (Big Night), has created an army of “kidbots,” and there is a battle for this “third brain” that will make them intelligent. Somewhere along the line a character asks if they can be reprogrammed. “Too late” flashes on the screen. There are walking thumbs, and plenty of puns to go around.
Although Spy Kids is a decent movie, it does not compare to old family classics. There is something missing, a hollow part of Spy Kids separate from neat toys and cute but cardboard characters. In short, the movie lacks a sense of depth.
The film shows plenty of potential – everyone wants to be a spy, to live the slightly dangerous but action-packed life of a secret agent. It would be great to be able to use computer-glasses, walkie-talkie watches, electromagnetic pulsing gumballs, instant concrete and jetpacks.
Of those who screened the movie, parents were unanimous saying that Spy Kids was the best family movie they had seen in a long time. Children in the audience agreed that it was a “cool movie, pretty funny,” but argued that Remember the Titans was better. It is strange to hear an 11-year-old compare a family movie to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Spy Kids is an ideal film to watch with younger siblings, or just for getting back in touch with childhood.
Spy Kids is in theatres Friday