Kid Tested – Uncle Approved: “Spy Kids” (2001)

 

 

First published in the Holyoke Enterprise 4/30/15Spy Kids

 

Who’d have thought Robert Rodriguez, the guy who brought us “From Dusk Til Dawn,” “Sin City,” and “Desparado,” would ever make not one, but four children’s action movies about a family of spies and their adventures saving the world?

After directing “The Faculty”, his only director-for-hire gig and arguably his least successful film, Rodriguez wrote and directed his first of many family-friendly action movies, “Spy Kids”. The Cortezes are your average family of four whose parents are secretly former international spies.

I bet they’d be a hoot at Parent-Teacher Conferences…

When Gregorio and Ingrid (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are called back into action, they’re captured by Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming), who demands they turn over a secret project called Third Brain so he can complete his army of robot children.

Forced to rescue them, their children Carmen and Juni (Alexa PenaVega and Daryl Sabara) quickly learn all about their parents’ former secret lives, arm up with an arsenal of gadgets their uncle invented (Danny Trejo) and set off to find Floop and his backstabbing number two, Alexander Minion (Tony Shalhoub).

Despite it’s dated special effects, this movie holds up quite well. It’s exciting, silly, and fun for the whole family. Also impressive to note Rodriguez shot the majority of the film in Texas and did all of the post-production in his home studio, which he nicknamed his “garage”. It was also his last film to be shot on film, having learned about digital filmmaking while finishing the effects at George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic studios at Skywalker Ranch.

“Spy Kids” proved to be such a success, Rodriguez went on to make “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams”, “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over”, and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World 4D”, as well as “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D”, embracing 3D filmmaking for the action adventure genre. It also gave him the opportunity to work with is now former wife, (Gugino), and make films his children could actually watch.

While my appreciation for his work has waned over the years (“Planet Terror” was the last of his films I really enjoyed and that was 2007), this turned out to be a fun movie. I don’t know if I have the patience to sit through the rest of the franchise, but I can only imagine the quality of the effects increases as his skills with them developed. I’ve also read that the third of the series was the most successful financially, so maybe I’ll tough it out and finish them.

Even though some of the dialog and gags are cringe-worthy, the action, gadgets and special effects make “Spy Kids” is a pretty good ride.

Four out of five Snack Packs

4 out of 5

 

 

Lincoln L. Hayes is a former writer and columnist of the Holyoke Enterprise. He lives in New York City where he is pursuing an acting and filmmaking career. The new season of his show “Boyfriend Training” will be online Thursday, May 7th. Catch up on the first season at http://www.lincolnlhayes.com

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