The Spy Kids Trilogy

Five months ago when I reviewed Alita: Battle Angel I said I wanted to check out Robert Rodriguez’s children’s movies and I am a man of my word. I hadn’t seen any of these movies since I was a little bundle of joy who didn’t really know any better. I always wanted to revisit them someday because, from memory, Robert Rodriguez’s kids movies are very different – weird, shockingly disturbing and laugh out loud dumb!

We have 6 movies to go through and we’re going to start with Rodriguez’s most well known series, The Spy Kids movies. For this first part we’ll looking at the Spy Kids trilogy that ran over three continuous years. We’ll be going into detail for each movie so strap yourselves in and be prepared as once you see these movies you will be a changed individual.

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Our parents can’t be spies … they’re not cool enough!

The first Spy Kids movie was surprisingly better than I remembered. It’s a simple, fun family movie, but it’s also weirdly brilliant.

Spy Kids is a love story between two opposing spies. There is no reference as to how they probably annoyed their respective agencies when they get married, run away together and have two children. In the present day, Mumma Spy tells her oblivious children of this forbidden romance, and passes it off as a folktale.

This is also when we meet the main characters of this series, Carmen and Juni Cortez. Carmen is the brave, strong willed kid who is unfortunately stuck with some of the cringiest dialogue in the movie. Juni is the cute kid and is stuck with the hard task of trying to be a convincing actor. These kids do a good job at serving their purpose in the story and at reminding you of what adults think kids in the early 2000’s were like. It’s more the things around them and the situations they get into that really hold the movie together.

Don’t forget, you’re not here for the characters, but for the awesome stuff that comes with being  a spy. Unfortunately since this is a kids movie though most of that cool stuff has to be thrown out of the window. Except of course for the gadgets. We get a few scenes looking at this stuff when we follow the parents, but the real treat is when we’re following the children. There is some impressive creative gadgetry in this movie as it mainly aims for the Sci-Fi goofy approach. It makes me wonder why they don’t just sell this stuff to the general public and make a fortune from it. At least sell the automatic restocking food cupboard and the microwave that can make instant McDonalds.

The Spy Kids first major task is when their parents are taken captive by the presenter of the most terrifying children’s show on the planet. Similar to the first Mission Impossible movie, instead of permanently taking out agents they’re turning them into horrifying monsters that are then chucked onto this kids show and sold as merchandise. (Oh, you monsters!) This is probably the first movie I have seen where it takes forever to figure out that the bad guys just want to take over the world. We learn Papa Spy and Twist Baddie worked together on a secret project to give robots actual intelligence. They have been working on a robot kid army which Mr Floop appropriately calls Spy Kids.

It’s not the evil plan that is the highlight, but more how everything looks. The sets and the design of the monsters are pretty great. The thumb henchmen and most of the evil lair shows how not amazing 2001 CGI was, so it’s a good thing it plays a minimal role. My favourite character in the movie is Robert Patrick’s character Mr Lisp as he surprisingly tops Floop at being the most ridiculous character in this movie.

I also like that Carmen and Juni do grow as characters and they learn something. I know it’s a necessity in every movie, but most kid’s movies seem to like leaving characters in the same state as they started. It’s all about family and learning to love them as they are and working through their flaws together.

As I said at the start this is a simple family friendly film, but it’s also quite brilliant with how fleshed out this secret world of spies is, how the main characters are handled and how everything is perfectly paced to make this a fun adventure filled flick with strong family values. There are so many memorable moments and creative action scenes that it is easy to watch. That being said, it’s nowhere near a masterpiece as there are certain aspects that make it feel similar to any other kid’s movie. The cringey dialogue and some of the jokes, mainly the toilet humour, hold it back from being something special.

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You’re full of shiitake mushrooms!

Spy Kids 2 is called The Island of Lost Dreams because I can’t recall anything about it!! Why is it called The Island of Lost Dreams? There is no relevance to this except I guess you could say it’s referring to Steve Buscemi being trapped on an island with his failed dreams, which I guess is kind of clever for a Spy Kids movie, but how many kids are going to figure that out?

Spy Kids 2 is dumb, plain and simple. There is still a story about family values and the kids learning to become stronger people. No, sorry scratch that, just Juni learning to become a stronger person. Now it’s covered with dumb nonsense, no I’m sorry, what I meant to say is it’s covered with camel poop!

The story of Spy Kids 2 Island of No Lost Dreams is even though Carmen and Juni are the first kids to join the Spy Kids program and are the main characters on a children’s TV show, no one really cares and just kicks The Cortez’s around for no reason. This time the siblings are up against their own Lester and Eliza clones. They’re up against the way more annoying The Giggles Twins. (I know they’re not twins, but I just wanted to say that.) You’ve got Little Miss Giggles, a smug know it all brat and Big Giggles, a young teen who I would have zero regrets about punching in his perfect face. The two pairs of siblings are in a race to retrieve the transmooker device (that’s it’s actual name!) before the evil Magno Men use it to destroy the world or something. (Am I the only one who remembers Magno Men?)

The spy world is explored even further as Spy Kids get levels of clearance to go on super dangerous missions with no parental supervision. There is a gadget for everything. If you thought instant McDonalds was great, well what about an instant tent that comes with free WiFi! Or this little girl who uses her ponytails like helicopter blades. My absolute favourite device is the non-electronic tracking tooth that Papa Spy put in his children’s mouths. If his kids get lost on an electronic free island, those teeth will finally be useful.

I guess the genuinely good parts of this movie come when they’re on the island and the kids have to use their wits to overcome any obstacles. Too bad that the worst character in the franchise is a part of this section, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Luckily it’s not a deal breaker though as the two main kids are still tolerable.

Easily the weakest link in the movie is the villain as the Magno Men are just a red herring for the real villain, which turns out to be ….. some guy. Minion is a way better twist villain as they don’t really hide the fact that he is the real brains, but it’s more catching onto the fact that Floop isn’t really cut out to be a villain. Donnagon Giggles is just some guy that the writers nominated to be their twist villain and we don’t know anything about him except he’s power hungry and he’s the father of the most annoying kids in the movie. He’s a nothing character with a plan that makes zero sense and by the time he became involved for the finale I had already mentally checked out.

I may sound negative towards this movie and that’s mainly because of how stupid it is. I could go on recapping every dumb moment this movie has to offer, but I would prefer to wrap things up. I admire the creative thought put into these Spy Kids movies as the island of spliced up creatures is quite interesting. Steve Buscemi, Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalban’s characters make great additions to the cast. I don’t hate the movie, it’s just silly. I can appreciate the effort Robert Rodriguez puts into this movie , but it’s just not for me.

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I never even got her e-mail address!

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is bad.  Of all the movies I have ever seen, few make me feel as conflicted as this movie does. It’s weird, there are things I really like about it, some things that had me laughing at how bad they were and other times that were simply just frustrating.

Following the events of the last movie Juni has gone solo and he’s doing smaller, less interesting work while his family get to do all of the fun stuff. Juni’s solo career is cut short as Daddy Giggles and Salma Hayek warn Juni of the villainous Toymaker, a man so evil yet still no one knows why he’s evil in the first place. The Toymaker’s plan involves trapping kids in a video game forever then escaping cyberspace so he can live out the same desire as every Spy Kids villain.

I should mention that to enter this game you have to put on this VR-like headset commonly known in the early 2000’s as 3-D glasses. If you choose you can watch the video game sections in 3-D and you will be paraded with things hitting you through the screen. (Luckily it isn’t 4-D.) I only had a 2-D copy so all the 3-D stuff looked kind of awkward when they were jumping up and down on my screen. Bottom line, 3-D is stupid, and I’m very grateful that in 2019 it’s very much dead and buried.

I was kind of surprised by how much I liked the video game sequence. (Other than for some glaring issues which we will get to later.) For someone who loves playing video games I can tell that this is more targeted at people with a basic knowledge of games, mainly because of the terrible references. This is fine as it’s more focused on telling a fun adventure movie. My favourite section is the death race as it’s a really fun, creative sequence and it’s the only time that I wished there was an actual game of this.

To keep on positives the main kids have very much improved over the last two years. Ricardo Montalban is still really good with what he’s given, but not even he can top the Toymaker. I was shocked to learn Sylvester Stallone got a Razzie for this, which I completely disagree with. There are definitely worse actors in the Spy Kids trilogy, but I thought Sly was good at playing this really dumb character and all his personalities.

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You’ll have to go through me first … Game-Boy!

I was really enjoying it to a point and that’s when they started bringing up ‘The Guy’ more regularly and the other gamer kids played a bigger part in the movie. The biggest problem is the writing as it’s quite terrible. Little Miss Giggles blandly tell us the message of the movie in the first 10 minutes and you’re expected to forget that until the ending. It’s so forced and manipulated that the ending made me want to throw up.

Speaking of “The Guy” this movie seems quite self-aware that it makes no sense, but all that tells me is that Robert Rodriguez is getting lazy. A great example of this is when the strong kid mentions in the real world he’s really poor and that’s why he wants to beat the game. Same scene Juni and the boy are forced to fight to the death to continue. It’s kind of hilarious later on when Level 5 turns out to be a ruse and this kid doesn’t really care that he wasted hours of his life for nothing.

Another is just before entering Level 5 when the tech gamer kid speculates that Juni and Carmen might be ‘The Deceiver’, a person who will lead them to their deaths once they reach Level 5. A couple of minutes later we learn gamer girl is a glitch created by the Toymaker and she’s the reason why Level 5 is unbeatable. Unless she falls in love with someone, only then Level 5 can be beaten. This reveal was so disappointingly bad! Mainly because the twist focuses around the worst character in the franchise (I say that alot, don’t I?) but I guess that’s my fault for expecting something cool from a Spy Kids movie.

This movie is also very CG heavy, which both works and doesn’t work. The CG looks so bad that it helps make you think you’re watching an early 2000’s video game. The downside is that the surroundings and objects the characters interact with look so incredibly fake that it’s too jarring not to think this was filmed in front of a green screen. It doesn’t help that most of the actors in these scenes are too young to give a convincing performance.

Even after explaining my thoughts to you I still feel conflicted as to the things I liked and the things I despised. This is more memorable than Spy Kids 2, but doesn’t compare to the first movie, which is the only one in this trilogy I would consider even close to a good film.

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Never send an adult to do a kid’s job.

That’s the end of the Spy Kids Trilogy and my review. I hoped you enjoyed this journey as much as I have. They were fun movies to revisit as there is really nothing like them. Don’t worry, this is only the halfway point of this little series. Hopefully in less than five months time Part 2 of Robert Rodriguez’s kids movies will be on the site for your reading pleasure and until then I have been The Blog Complainer, signing out.

 

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