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Family films are a lot of things. Poorly-acted, lazily-written and full of bad songs, as a rule. What they aren't is something that a whole family will actually enjoy.
But then along came Robert Rodriguez, and he decided to throw a twisted spanner in the cog of poor slapstick and po-faced rite-of-passage yawn-fests. He made Spy Kids.
Rodriguez, using a team full of what can only be described as the 'usual suspects' (Banderas, Marin, Los Lobos) takes a standard children's adventure film and injects it with a decent script, pleasantly cheesy special effects, an army of filmic references and enough twisted surrealist imagery to seriously screw up your kid's head. In a good way. Trust me on this. Add the now-standard impossibly cool electric-Latino guitar soundtrack from Los Lobos and the end result is a cross between El Mariachi, Doctor Who and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Antonio Banderas and his wife are a youngish married couple with two squabbling children. During a magical flashback sequence, the mother tells her children a bedtime story of the two spies who fell in love.
Soon afterwards, the two spies are called out of retirement, to investigate the disappearance of their colleagues. They are quickly captured in the fairy castle of Floop, an enigmatic inventor who stars in a television program which the spies' son adores, and who is also constructing a robotic army. Floop needs a device constructed by Banderas over a decade previously. Predictably, it's up to the children, who had no idea about the double lives of their parents until this point, to save the day.
Children will love this film. This child certainly did. There's a bewildering array of colourful gadgets on offer, from the mini-subs and rocket-packs to penknife-sized lightsabres (the end credits offer their thanks to Mr. George Lucas) and electric chewing gum.
As for other film references, a shot of a robot secret agent punching through a wall is remarkably similar to The Matrix, and I was delighted to see the Mariachi's guitar lying around the Banderas household. Alexander Minion has both a character and a name direct from an Austin Powers film, particularly when he tries to get comfortable in Floop's chair towards the end of the film.
If the 'real world' spy hardware is unbelievable, with bright yellow submarines and rocket packs, Floop's castle can only be the product of some serious substance abuse. Decorated in bright primary colours like a children's cartoon, guarded by sinister but clumsy giant thumb people, with jigsaw puzzle patterns on the windows and floors that vanish to be replaced by toughened glass or a gaping hole, this twisted nursery world can only be inspired by Tim Burton himself (I heard the tell-tale nursery twinkling of a Danny Elfman theme at times, and wasn't surprised to see his name in the credits). The castle is a children's television world that has been twisted and distorted subtly, to give the impression of something a lot more sinister. Even the Teletubbies are sent up in the form of the gabbling Floop's Fooglies: a race of large, deformed figures who leap around clapping their hands. The Fooglies are spies that have been mutated, and they spend their television time screaming for help from an uncomprehending audience.
Floop is played by Alan Cumming, a comedy actor of ludicrous talent. American audiences know him almost exclusively through Goldeneye, in which he played Boris and got frozen by liquid nitrogen at the end. The more sophisticated audience members might remember him from BBC TV's film Bernard and the Genie, or the fantastic sitcom The High Life.
Here, Cumming is having a great time, as he gets to play both a villain and a hero. The boy, Juni, worships both Floop and his television show, and is desolate when he realises that the man is a villain. However, when the tables are turned by Minion, Juni converts Floop to his side during one of the most surreal scenes, in the VIRTUAL ROOM. This conversion is signalled very early in the film, but Floop retains a certain degree of amorality even after seeing the light. He repents his evil schemes not because they are evil as such, but because he's bored with them, and would prefer to focus on his television show. Floop is very definitely the star of the show.
The children themselves are surprisingly good. Juni can be a little annoying, especially at the beginning, but the girl playing Carmen is surprisingly plausible and consistent in her performance. By the end, Juni has become an irritating but likeable figure in his style-defying waistcoat and bow-tie. Carmen has less in the way of character development to do, but an undeniable talent for her craft. Her physical comedy when fighting her robot double is particularly impressive.
One of the things that impressed me most, however, was the special effects. They were rubbish. And this was fantastic. To see an action film that puts its money into things other than hollow digital morphing gizmos is a refreshing change. With Rodriguez occupying almost every single production credit to save money, it's clear that the surplus of cash went on design. Everything about this film is stunningly well-designed: the costumes, the sets and the gadget props. The special effects are crude, although convincing enough. Obviously a lot of green-screening is going on, and a welcome return to men in monster costumes, rather than the pointless CGI constructs of recent years. Fantastic cheese-tinged escapism.
This is a fantastic piece of cinema. Rodriguez hasn't compromised his artistic style just because he's making a children's film. His jump-cuts and other camera tricks are still employed for maximum coolness. The music is brilliant, courtesy once again of the magnificent Los Lobos. The cast is splendid, with the surprisingly good kids and the dependable figures of Banderas and Cumming.
The only real problem is the film's MESSAGE, when the young target audience becomes painfully apparent. The moral about keeping families together is hammered home with little subtlety.
The film's other major fault is its advertising. When I first saw the posters, I decided I would rather eat my own feet than watch it. While children will identify easily with the child characters, parents should be reassured: the adult support cast has a huge amount of quality screen-time. So even if you're not convinced by Carmen and Juni, you'll still find plenty to adore about the film.
The spy genre has grown rather tiresome in recent years, with each entry into the James Bond film series (such as "The World is Not Enough") sinking the venerable franchise further into banality. Even last summer's "Mission: Impossible 2", with Hong Kong action auteur John Woo at the helm, suffered from a dearth of imagination and inventiveness beneath all the double-fisted shootouts and slo-mo sheen. Now Robert Rodriguez, a John-Woo-schooled writer/director who found fame during the Nineties with his shoestring-budgeted "El Mariachi", gets his shot at making his own spy flick with "Spy Kids". And despite Rodriguez's association with blood-and-guts action films such as "Desperado" and "From Dusk Till Dawn", he successfully manages to both invigorate the ailing genre with some new ideas, as well as allow this critic to use the words 'kick-ass' and 'family film' in the same sentence and mean it. Gregorio (Antonio Banderas of "The Mask of Zorro") and Ingrid Cortez (Carla Gugino of "Snake Eyes") are like any other married couple-- they are well-to-do urban professionals with a nice home and two children, Carmen (Alexa Vega of "Twister") and Juni (newcomer Daryl Sabara). However, they also happen to be a couple of retired secret agents, and when they are called out of retirement to track down some missing spies and subsequently captured, it's up to the kids to save them. Principal baddie is Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming, seen recently in "Get Carter"), whose highly-rated television show and merchandising empire is actually a cover for his diabolical scheme of world domination. Floop is assisted by his minion, named Minion (Tony Shalhoub of "Galaxy Quest"), and together, they plan to replace the children of prominent politicians with deadly robots. The only problem is that the robots, dubbed 'spy kids', are not yet able to
pass as real children due to a lack of brainpower-- a problem for which Gregorio holds the key to a solution. "Spy Kids" easily straddles the line between something to delight the kids, as well as a film that will entertain their paying parents. Similar to how Ronny Yu's "Warriors of Virtue" brought the conventions of the wu shu epic to the pre-teen set back in 1997, "Spy Kids" infuses the trappings of the spy genre (and a little dash of John Woo) to the family film. Rodriguez concocts an easy mix of parody, breathtaking action sequences, and all the things you would expect from a James Bond film (including the gizmos) into a snappily-paced package that will have you uttering "I've never seen that before" more times than you would expect. However, being a 'family film', the action sequences never get too 'serious' or disturbing. In addition, Rodriguez doesn't skimp on imparting some 'family values', which he manages to do without slapping the syrup on thick. And what is particularly amazing is that "Spy Kids" was made for only $36 million, the frugal director's biggest budget to date. Though the widespread use of CGI is readily apparent, it doesn't detract from the film, and actually enhances the giddy cartoonishness of the film. Robot henchmen called 'thumb thumps' shaped like the Yellow Pages logo (and 'all thumbs' when it comes to actually doing something useful), a ridiculously small spy plane, a 'virtual reality' room, and a production design inspired by Dr. Seuss are just a few of the riotous touches found in this larger-than-life kid flick. The cast contains a number of recognizable faces, many of whom are alumni of previous Rodriguez productions. At the center of the action are the two child actors, Vega and Sabara, who carry the film with their earnest performances and likeable charm-- they are certainly cute, but
they don't go as far as being cringe-inducingly cute. As their parents, Banderas and Gugino acquit themselves well, as do Cumming and Shalhoub as the megaolmaniacal villains. Returning for yet another Rodriguez outing are Robert Patrick (Agent Doggett of "The X-Files") as the man bankrolling Floop's operation, Cheech Marin ("From Dusk Till Dawn") as the 'uncle' of the kids, Danny Trejo ("Con Air") successfully cast-against-type as a spy gadgets inventor, and a great cameo by George Clooney ("The Perfect Storm"). Finally, an almost unrecognizable Teri Hatcher ("Tomorrow Never Dies") shows up as Gregorio and Ingrid's boss, who is having a bad hair day. Apparently, Rodriguez first found himself inspired to make "Spy Kids" on the set of "Four Rooms", where he directed Antonio Banderas in a scene where he had to baby-sit two brats. Dressed to the nines, the director wondered what it would be like if the two kids in the scene were actually spies in the mold of tuxedo-wearing James Bond. As a result, he struck a deal with the Dimension Films arm of Miramax-- he would direct "The Faculty" in exchange for a greenlight on "Spy Kids". Judging from what I saw today, it certainly looks as though the gamble has paid off handsomely.
A big fan of Rodriguez films, especially his El Mariachi series (still waiting patiently for the third!), Spy Kids was a film I was dreading watching incase it made the action director look a fool. A kids movie? A comedy? No blood? Not even any real gunfights? Not my kind of film at all, but all it took was the opening few scenes and I was hooked into the most enjoyable ninety minutes I can remember having recently. Its hard to believe, but Robert Rodriguez has pulled off the near-impossible. What am I doing giving five stars to a kids movie that's as unbelievable and daft as it is shallow? Spy Kids is a kids-orientated action comedy about a family of spies -- two veterans and two child new-comers to the fast paced world of comic espionage. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino are father and mother of Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara. Daddy Cortez is the smooth-talking Latino cardboard cutout with hair grease and not much else. Mummy Cortez is the excitable lass who looks like she's hardly got through puberty let alone childbirth. Carmen, the twelve year old daughter, is your typical pre-teen daughter, but less than pleased at her unenviable job of looking after her younger brother Juni your average eight year old sweaty-palmed, self-underestimating boy. They all live in their healthily-furnished suburban home, parents enjoying retirement while their children lead less ideal lives -- she truants from school, while he spends most of his time watching an inane kiddies show on TV. Their lives go kaput when the spies' ex-boss calls them back into action. A new foe is in town (Alan Cumming, residing in his comic-book castle of insanity, of course, and sporting clothes almost as daft as the TV show he presents -- funnily enough the same TV show young Master Cortez watches, you'd never have guessed that one would you?) Mum and Dad hop into their underwater car (where'd that idea come from?) and off they trot to save the world (
"I want to save the world" says Mum, "again?" says Dad -- oh the script is pure genius). But oh dear, our spies are a bit rusty and find themselves captured (tortured? executed? Nope, just told to sit down in a chair -- it's a kids movie, remember?) Back at home, young Carmen and Juni are being looked after by a stand-in uncle (you remember Cheech Marin, don't you!) But! But the house gets attacked by ..... well I'll let you see what attacks the house, but don't expect it to be any less ridiculous than the rest of the film. Hastily briefed, the kids roar off in a ..... high speed pod thing. The children now need to learn the ways of the secret agent, introducing themselves to the gadgets and cleverly working out what they have to do all on their own. Of course the bad guys try to capture them (Teri Hatcher's aged a bit!) but with the help of their uncle's (the real uncle, played by Danny Trejo) gadget shop, Carmen and Juni continue on their mission to rescue Mum and Dad and save the world from the bad-guy's evil plan! The cast is full of Rodriguez vets. Antonio Banderas is at the top of the credit list (and bottom of the acting talent list, but that doesn't matter one bit in this movie). We also see Cheech Marin of course, Rodriguez's most trusted support actor, and everybody's favourite ex-con turned actor Danny Trejo), plus a role from Robert Patrick. We've even got George Clooney (you'll remember Rodriguez had the honour of introducing the TV actor to real filmmaking) giving an absolutely hilarious two-page cameo. But some of the cast is new to the director. Carla Gugino gives a very plastic but friendly perfromance as the mother, and Alan Cumming is the perfect comic-book villain -- one hundred percent predictable (he'd have benefited from a counter-twist or two) and two hundred percent corny. But who could forget the stars of the show? Alexa Vega is excelle
nt as Carmen -- while she gives a very childish and typical performance, the film wouldn't benefit from anything different, and she gives a gorgeous little show. Daryl Sabara is not so great as the boy, relying more on his lines than anything else -- but what do you expect from an eight year old? The plot of Spy Kids is not at all complex or interesting, and much of the acting, script and imagery is aimed squarely at children. No blood is spilt, no-one really gets hurt and the script is free of all foul language -- save a very conspicuous use of the "s" word (didn't know they let those into U-rated films ... times have changed!). But this all matters not one bit -- if anything it adds to the novelty of the thing. What matters is what Rodriguez and co. slap on top of a poor child's film. First of all, Spy Kids is full of homages and references to other movies, some more subtle than others -- Rodriguez' early work is all over the film, and we get references to everything from Temple Of Doom to The Matrix, John Woo to John McClane. Then the directing of the film is fresh, snappy and charged. Taking a wad of leaves from the music video mould, and more than a little of Rodriguez's action-film touch, we get a fast-paced action film hurtling around runaway-train-style. Super-fast cuts are all over the place, and we get some fantastic use of speed-up and slow motion -- from the hilarious slow motion intro to "the new costume" as seen in every action film since the dawn of slo-mo, to some break-neck dollies, the editing is quick, sudden and unexpected. In any "normal" film this would be a heavy distraction, but it suits Spy Kids perfectly -- this film would commit suicide before taking itself at all seriously. At under ninety minutes, the film is very short -- but "compact" would be a better description, as lots is fitted into the time (in El Mariach Rodriguez fast-forwarded his film when
he was approaching the end of a film wheel to save money, in Spy Kids he does the same when he gets bored!!) Spy Kids does well to capture us and drag us about, leaving us little time to think "am I really watching a silly kids film?". After a nice opening we get an introduction to a few characters, but before we know it we're right in the middle of a wedding -- Robert Rodriguez style, with helicopters, paratroopers, fancy gadgets and fast cuts. Didn't see that one coming! Indeed some lovely scenes and shots like this decorate the film, from John Woo-style "wooshing" trenchcoats to super-fast chase-cams and some impressive aerial shots. Special effects are used heavily, adding much of the colour to this very cheerful and brightly coloured film. Musically, Spy Kids is much richer than ever expected or required. Some solid tracks with their roots in rock, we go through a splash techno right to Latin-American acoustic guitar (remember Los Lobos, Rodriguez's soundtrack of choice?) And much of the soundtrack contains obvious James Bond themes, indeed the whole film is like a fluffy Bond toy. Spy Kids is not the kind of film that I usually watch (the only reason I dared to rent a kids movie is the director), and far less the kind of film I ever imagined giving five stars for! It is not one of the greatest films ever -- far far from it. But for what it is, Spy Kids is great -- what it is, by the way, is a jokey, funny action comedy aimed at children, but one which adults can enjoy as much as any child could. I have to say I really enjoyed the film, and is a fine example of what a director can do if he's brave enough to leap whole-heartedly into an unfamiliar genre.
Throughout the years we have seen many thrillers and adventures involving spies. With James Bond perhaps being the most famous, there have been many different ways in which spies have been viewed. In an interesting twist to the tale Arnold Schwazzeneger joining up with his non-spy wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) to produce an interesting spy story with humour. Many of these movies have concentrated on making the story and action as realistic as possible. In this movie we see the directors really trying to give a 'cartoon' or 'superhero' type feel in a similar way to Batman movies. The movie combines many different techniques seen in recent years, ranging from the subtle - i.e. the use of the invisible floor to the obvious - zooming in on faces. It perhaps does this to keep children interested in the movie. ***Spy Kids*** Spy Kids is a combination of many different cinematic types. We have James Bond / Inspector Gadget type gadget wizardry; we have theatrics that could be taken from classics such as the Adams Family, and for the American's out there we have Pee Wee Herman's playhouse as a background for the evil doers. Gregorio (Anthony Banderas) and Ingrid Cortez play spies on opposite sides that despite having the assignment to assassinate each other have fallen in love with each other and retired to tackle the harder task of parenthood and marriage. This romantic notion seems standard for spy type movies. They are forced out of retirement when many of their former colleagues disappear, their task to find out what happened. Unfortunately they are both soon kidnapped by the evil Fegan Floop, a children's host similar to Pee Wee Herman who also is an evil wizard. Floop seems to be a misguided Willy Wonker, more intent on his creations than the evil that they may perpetrate. It is therefore left to their children Carmen and Juni to save the day and rescue their parents and all the
other unfortunate spies who have been kidnapped. Floop is experimenting with his wizardry; he has created many of the characters on his children's show by transfigurmorgering (OK so that's my word) people into cartoon like characters (now I wonder where all the disappeared spies could be?). As his experiments continue he somehow manages to create 500 super bionic kids that are extremely strong, quick and agile, the only problem being that they haven't got a brain. Aha, but the Cortezs (parents) have a prototype super brain - twisty plot takes over a little - it seems that Mr Cortez was experimenting with super brains, one of his colleagues was fired for getting to interested in the brain - Mr Cortez was supposed to destroy the brain but kept it - now the colleague appears as an associate of Floop! The Cortezs (Kids) begin their quest to find their parents. We see many different gadgets used as they seek to thwart the evil Floop, and also have to face their own evil Doppelgangers. Much of the action is bizarre and weird, with some 'thumb' men chasing them at times in high-speed chases. Much of the action is meant to be funny as the directors try to combine slapstick comedy and thrilling action. Some of the useful gadgets include exploding gum, corrosive crayons, jackets that are jet paks etc. (This movie is also much like a computer game!). ***My Opinion*** First and foremost it must be remembered that this is a kids movie. Thus the plot is very convoluted and unbelievable, many of the characters are shallow and meaningless and the cinematography is very bright using many bright primary colours to add to the almost cartoony feel to the movie. The movie is full of 'silliness' that is aimed directly at the children in the audience and it will undoubtedly cause many laughs and chuckles amongst your children. As a parent, I found the movie to be suitable for children with just the righ
t amount of evilness, and no rudeness or foul language. The plot is very straightforward and does move towards an obvious ending (although there is a twist or two along the way). The movie is action packed and will therefore keep children interested all the way through. The gadgets were a little disappointing, most of them being simply children's versions of the adult spy gadgetry. It would have been interesting to have seen more 'Willy Wonka' type gadgets for the children to see. From my children's reaction to this movie I rate it fairly high as it kept their interest and had them laughing at times; as a parent I found the movie to 'childish' for me - many movies of this type normally have some humour directed at the adults, this movie didn't really do that. ***Conclusion*** Although I wouldn't consider this as a great movie for families to go and watch at the cinema, it is definitely worth getting on video or DVD as it will be an entertaining addition to your children's movie collection. The idea of the movie was good although not really that original, but I felt it was spoilt a little by a weak and flawed plot (parents perspective) making it a mediocre movie for adults.
This film was directed and written by Mr Robert Rodrigues, who is mostly known for his part in the creation of many action movies. 'Spy Kids' is definatly a action movie, for kids and big kids alike. Carmen and Juni Cortez (Alex Vega and Daryl Sabara) follow in their parents footsteps and become spies after their parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are kidnapped because they were called back for one last mission after nine years of retirement. They have to save their parents from the clutches of children's telly host, Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming). The film is full of objects, gadgets and gizmos such as Convertable Cars, Jet Packs and Speed Boats as the kids chase the bad guys, Floop's team of thumb creatures. The film was good and the children made brilliant actors/actresses. I'm sure their future is now mapped out for them career wise. I'm not sure if this is still showing all over the country, but it is worth a watch...
So, what's this film all about then? Well, you've got a James Bondesque spy, right, but he's married and has a couple of kids. Hold on, that sounds familiar... Yep, it's the same sort of set up as "True Lies", but the difference is that this time his wife's a spy as well, and the film's for kids. So that's okay then. The film opens at bedtime in the Cortez household. Juni's (Daryl Sabara - His first film appearance) putting his anti-wart medicine onto his fingers, whilst his sister, Carmen (Alexa Vega - Twister) asks for a bedtime story. The one she gets told by her mother, Ingrid (Carla Gugino - Spin City, Snake Eyes), is the story of two spies from different countries who get drawn together and fall in love, and finally marry. Unbeknownst to her, the story is actually that of her mother and father, who gave up the spying game for a far more dangerous mission - that of parenthood. Into the mix comes Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming - Goldeneye, God the Devil and Bob), the host of a number two rated children's show. It's a show that Juni thinks is fantastic, as such children do, but everyone else thinks is a load of old tosh. Anyway, we soon find out that Floop is supplying high-tech weapons and gadgetry to a shady character called Mr Lithp - sorry, Lisp - (Robert Patrick - Terminator 2, The X-Files) and that the TV show is just a front for his operations. A bit worryingly though, he doesn't seem to know what's going on, as he has to be prompted by one of his minions, called bizarrely enough, Alexander Minion (Tony Shalhoub - A Life Less Ordinary, Galaxy Quest). It turns out that various agents from the bureau Ingrid and Gregorio (Antonio Banderas - Desperado, The Mask of Zorro) work for have gone missing without trace and it is up to them to save the day and save the agents. Of course, this all goes wrong, and they get themselves captured by Floop. All througho
ut this, Juni and Carmen are unaware that their parents are actually spies, so it comes as great surprise to them when Uncle Felix (Cheech Marin - Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn) tells them that he isn't in fact their uncle, but that he has been assigned to protect them. Unfortunately, as Felix starts to explain exactly what it is that their parents do for a living, the house gets attacked by Floop's Thumbthumbs, and Felix is put out of action. Luckily, before this happened, Felix had told the children how to escape from the house, and they manage to - just. The film continues through a journey of discovery for the children, as they find out for themselves that only by working together can they overcome the bad guys and save their parents. Yep, this does sound very twee, and I was expecting to not like the film because of this, but it's done very well indeed. What won me over straight away was the fact that Juni had worts on his hands. After all, what kind of hero has warts? Rodriguez's (From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty) direction is, as normal, fast paced and energetic and it is this that really makes the film. Without it, it could easily have become a stale and turgid affair, devoid of the charisma that the film exudes. But it's there, so that's okay then. Rodriguez's films normally feature copious amounts of violence, and this one's no different. So the question has to be, how did it get a PG rating? The answer is simple - whenever something bad's going to happen, Juni and Carmen are told to close their eyes. They do so, and the camera focuses on them, meaning that the viewer doesn't get to see anything that would raise the certificate. Genius! The film features a fair few people who've collaborated with Rodriguez in the past - Antonio Banderas, Cheech Marin, George Clooney and Danny Trejo have all appeared in his films before, and I'm sure that there are others that I've m
issed. The music is provided by one Danny Elfman, and as usual his music sounds just like everything else that he's ever done. That's not to say that it's bad, anything but, it's just that he has an uncanny ability to make everything he writes sound the same. A case in point, Floop's song sounds almost identical to the song "This is Halloween" from "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Special mention in this op has to go to Antonio Banderas' moustache that he wears in the opening bedtime story. The reason? Well, it just looks incredibly fake, and had me thinking that the make-up department could have done a lot better job of it. However, it turns out that it is a fake, as we see Banderas putting it back on when he goes in his retrieval mission! All in all, I didn't expect much of this film before I went to see it, but I must say that I thought it was great. Not the "Best Film In The World Ever"?, but it is a worthwhile diversion for an hour and a half.
Spy Kids / 90 mins / U - Real Spies... only smaller How could I argue against not seeing such a polished looking movie? This movie had it all. A superb cast, lots of action, a big budget and the hintings of a James Bond film. What could go wrong I questioned myself? Well that’s the last time I ever listen to me that’s for sure. Spy Kids kicked off the summer blockbuster season with an all-star cast that included the slick Antonio Banderas, the evil Robert Patrick, the villain Alan Cumming and the beautiful Carla Gugino plus those two tykes Daryl Sabara and Alex Vega. I can’t even say that the acting was top stuff because it wouldn’t be further from the truth. They were lazy and I almost got the feeling that they took this film for granted! Oh well, it’s only a bunch of kids attitude I got from this film. The child actors seemed like brats and most often than not you felt like slapping them across the head and teaching them that they should be in Barney or something and don’t waste their career on a dodgy film like this. The story wasn’t any good either. Mum and Dad are spies and we never knew kind of thing – oh please! Granted that this is a kid’s flick and complexity would spoil it but there you go. The story goes something like this: There are two parents (Rodriguez and Gugino) who are ex-spies that return to the fray in order to discover why member of their old team are missing. They get kidnapped themselves and it’s up to old Timmy and Sally o save them. I know Spy films go light on the plot but not this light! The only bits I liked is when their Uncle Felix played by the funny Cheech Marin came to stay with hilarious consequences! Despite the big budget and stunning cast I was not convinced. Maybe because I am not a little ten year old who can be tricked into thinking unimaginative script, poor dialogue and bad editing is a good way to spend the best part of
two hours! This film is intended mainly for children but it also caters for the older of us who must take the children to the cinema in the first place. This spoils it and instead of focusing on being a new movie it tries too hard to be a James Bond for kids. The gadgets are cliché and are not used in a way as to help the story along but are used mainly as a distraction from the awfulness of it all. The odd chirp of childish humour did seem refreshing but it just wasn’t enough. Nothing in this film was never enough and that is its major downfall. The action came thick and fast and it would have been good if it wasn’t constantly ripping off the Matrix, man I hate it when they do that! The CG effects were so poor that animation looked like it had come from some Mars attacks movie of the 1940’s. Some sequences were believable due to their fast pace and up beat music backing but they never gave you any real sense of adventure. I did like the shark scene though – pity they didn’t have a couple of certain kids on the menu that day though! Why does Hollywood insist on “kidifying” everything in sight? Next we’ll be seeing baby Terminator 2 before long! I strongly insist that despite the hype surround this film that you steer well clear. One good reason for the hype is that they know it’s a bad film and we have to suffer by their constant promotions! If you even see a big fat blob of ink of Rodriguez’s filmography then it will certainly be over Spy Kids as this is a blemish on an otherwise perfect track record. It is hard to imagine that this has come from a man who created From Dusk ‘till Dawn, Desperados and . He should have seen sense when he made two little children run around with guns and a whole load of deadly devices, I’m not one to be a killjoy but an American film should not be mixing guns and children as we are all too familiar with the consequences.
Cast: Daryl Sabara (Juni Cortez), Alexa Vega (Carmen Cortez), Antonio Banderas (Gregorio Cortez), Alan Cumming (Fegan Floop), Carla Gugino (Ingrid Cortez), George Clooney (Devlin) (cameo), Teri Hatcher (Ms. Gradenko), Cheech Marin (Uncle Felix), Robert Patrick, Tony Shalhoub (Minion), Danny Trejo (Uncle Machete) The sequel has already been arranged and will be called Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams – will we ever learn? For more info go here: http://www.upcomingmovies.com/spykids2.html. My advice is that unless you have the mental ago of 10 are actually are ten then give this miss! Oh, the DVD is released on 18th September – I say this so you know when to stay out of the shops!
Spy Kids’ has been met with almost universal critical acclaim, and Miramax are so impressed with it, that a sequel is already in production, but it is hard to see why this is the case. Two retired spies Gregorio Cortez (Antonio Banderas) and his wife Ingrid (Carla Gugino, ‘Spin City’, ‘Snake Eyes’) are captured by Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming, ‘Goldeneye’), a rich and powerful producer of a children’s television programme. Enter our two heroes, Juni (Daryl Subara) and Carmen (Alexa Vega) who are the 8 and 12 year-old children of our ex-spies, who must save their parents from the evil mastermind and stop the army of robot children called “spy kids” (hence the double meaning of the title). The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez who has assembled actors from his previous films of ‘Desperado’, and ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’, such as Danny Trejo who plays Uncle Machete, and Cheech Marin, who plays Uncle Felix. There are also roles for Teri Hatcher, (‘Superman’, Tomorrow Never Dies’), Robert Patrick (‘Terminator 2’) and George Clooney (cameo). Rodriguez has had much success with his violent adult films, but the one criterion for a family film like this is that it can appeal to both children and adults alike. Whilst a young child might enjoy this universal rated film, I feel that it is thoroughly vacuous from an adult perspective. The acting is second-rate and Antonio Banderas is frankly awful and unconvincing, which is surprising, especially after has played similar character roles before, albeit in a more violent and adult way (e.g. ‘Assassins’). The two children do not do badly, but nor do they excel. Child actors seem to have improved and set new high standards, especially after amazing performances by actors such as Haley Joel Osment in ‘Sixth Sense’. Strangely, critics have pointed to a strong script as a boon f
or this film, whereas I felt that it lacked imagination and was completely uninventive, not to mention that it was for the most part, utterly humorless. The one notable exception to the awful acting is the excellent Carla Gugino, who was, incidentally, a replacement for Kelly Preston (‘Jerry Maguire’), but even her casting is strange as how can the 29 year-old Gugino play mother to the twelve year old Alexa, when she was supposed to have retired from spying to start a family? This exemplifies the thoughtlessness and superficiality of the plot. One positive of the film is that the special effects are good, with ‘Super-Ted’ style boot rockets, jet-packs, a virtual reality room, speed boats, and a lightning fast micro airplane. Such gadgets seem to hold the film together to make the film bearable at least. The idea of having a children’s version of James Bond is not totally original, as any film rarely is, and is much more disappointing than the ‘Teen Agent’ (1991), although Richard Grieco plays a slightly older spy than Juni and Carmen do in ‘Spy Kids’. My reservations about this film are almost irrelevant when one looks at the commercial and merchandising success of this film, as ultimately that is what is important. However, from an artistic point of view, I only hope that the sequel will bring a better script, a more inventive plot, and more imaginative acting.
In recent interviews to promote his film Spy Kids, writer-director Robert Rodriguez has said that the film was inspired by his desire to make a movie that his three sons (the very coolly named Rebel, Rocket and Racer) could watch. That sounds like public relations spin to mask a creaky career move. But Spy Kids is so wickedly smart, so fully and wonderfully imagined that it's clearly an act of love, not desperation. It's a children's film that will appeal to adults as well, even those who aren't parents. Witty and hugely entertaining, Spy Kids may well wind up being one of the best movies of the year. Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) are former spies who supposedly retired at the top of their game in order to raise their children and pursue less hectic lives. They're now the parents of a smart, precocious daughter (Alexa Vega) and a younger son (Daryl Sabara) who is still somewhat overwhelmed by the world. When Gregorio is contacted by his old boss and asked to do one last job, not only does Ingrid (itching to get back to work) decide to go along on the job, but a flood of family secrets come pouring out. Banderas hasn't been so good in ages. Mocking both his own image as a screen lover, and the very icon of the smoldering Latin Lothario, he's both sexy and silly, clearly relishing the part. And Gugino, who has glimmered just below the celebrity radar for a while now, may be the world's sexiest mom, managing to blend maternal warmth and va-va-voom heat simultaneously. When the couple's mission goes awry, their kids are forced to go undercover in order to save not only their parents, but the world as well. Rodriguez maintains his trademark cool -- the Latin inflected soundtrack, quick banter that's hip but never forced, and fast pacing that never sacrifices logic for expedience - but also expands his style. There are elements of James Bond, Tim Burton and Pee-Wee Herman
at work here (the always fantastic Alan Cummings shows up as a Pee-Wee type television host) but it all flows organically. The movie is a visual treat, full of gorgeously overblown sets and gee-whiz gadgets and gizmos. Even more impressive is the fact that the film takes a Latino aesthetic/terrain and presents it as the norm, not in quotes or italics and not with an obvious or heavy-handed political agenda. That makes it both specific in its references, yet wholly universal in appeal. Another bonus is that the film is actually scored, not crammed with wall-to-wall pop tracks. What will please parents most is that this film is filled with life-lessons that are cleverly taught: the importance of family and honesty, the need for belief in self and goodness toward others. But it's Rodriguez' wit and pop-culture savvy, neither of which devolve into raunch or post-mod quipping, that ultimately make this film such a highly recommended treat.
"Spy Kids" is one heck of a movie. Never have I seen a kiddie flick come along which is so clean, and yet still so entertaining at the same time. This odd blend of one of the best (The Matrix) and worst (Baby Geniuses) movies of 1999 is surprisingly exciting for something so "PG", and director and writer Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn) manages to create loads of fun while still keeping the violence level down. He manages to do all this by being incredibly inventive with his special effects. "Spy Kid's" is a visual fun house of ideas which are all so playfully intuned with kids and their level of interest. He comes up with things such as movable thumb people and floors that fall apart like puzzle pieces. Rodriguez also has a lot of fun with this topic, putting in loads of high tech equipment and transportation, which offer kids and adults an incredible ride which is most always played for humor and thrills. The basic set up for "Spy Kids" is this. Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) were both spies working for different agencies, when a "hit" put out on each other brings them closer together. They decide to put away the spy work and live normal lives as husband and wife, and soon father and mother. But the perfect family they dream about is far from. Their kids are keeping secrets from them, a trait from their former job that they feel they have passed on to their children. Their daughter Carmen (Alexa Vega) is skipping school, while Juni (Daryl Sabara) is being bullied at school and instead of telling his parents, just makes up a couple of imaginary friends. They see how their past lives have affected their children, but before they can correct their wrong, their past catches up with them. They are thrown back into the spy game to investigate the capture of several other spies, but only end up being captured themselves. The culprit also just ha
ppens to be Juni's favorite televison star, Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming). Floop is after a brain prototype that Gregorio created years ago. If he can implant that into the heads of his robot and mutant henchmen, nothing can stop him from taking over the world and becoming the number one rated show on TV. But his other human henchmen Minion (played dastardly well by Tony Shalhoub) has other plans. Back home, the feuding siblings must learn to work together in order to save their parents and the world as they are tossed into the spy game as well. It seems as if the best kids movies always have a family-like theme to them, and "Spy Kids" is no exception. Much of this movie is exciting, but then there are those other parts, which are to cuteness what Charlie's Angels was to sexy clad women. Some may accuse Rodriguez of turning corny on us all of a sudden, but luckily he is also working with some very funny material here, as well as with newcomer Daryl Sabara. His partner Alexa Vega also comes off very strong in her role as his sister. Together they are a very good crime fighting team, and I look forward to seeing them in upcoming sequels. Alan Cumming is also very good, turning in an absent minded Willy Wonka style performance that also fits in very well with Rodriguez's style for this movie, which seems to be based largely around an amusement park surrounding a James Bond movie. His film may be corny for older kids, but this is for the young ones (or me!) and chances are you will never find a movie as decent and fun for them as this one is for a long time
Spy kids is one of those films I really wanted to hate, for a number of reasons. I had an inkling that I would hate it, just by the trailers I had seen, but had to see it myself, after so much good publicity, the curiosity just got the better of me! Starring Antonio Banderas and Robert Patrick (probably the films two biggest names, although the cast is actually very strong!) this is a Robert Rodriguez film about (surprise, surprise) two young kids named Carman and Juni cartez who play two wannabe heroes in one of the most unlikely action flicks of the year! As unlikely as it sounds, it's the truth of the film, and this, for me was always destined to be bad ? which it was! After the kidnapping of their parents(called back for one last mission as ex-secret agents) by a children?s TV host called Fegan Floop, they set out on a rescue mission that has all the originality of....ummm....something unoriginal! Having created bionic children, he desperately needs a brain to implant in each, that will aid his takeover of the world, and as luck has it, the parents of the start duo have the very thing he wants --> How fortunate was that?!?!? Bring on a series of actions scenes that are hardly enough to keep the viewer awake, let alone excite, while the acting ability of the two young starts is less than matured. The continued use of CGI is not to the highest level of excellence, another factor which only adds to the 'shoddy' work this film shows. Banderas plays his role amicably, god only knows why he took the part (other then the huge wad of cash that was thrown his way no doubt). Chasing the enemies on everything from rockets to speedboats, this is no doubt a film that the younger audience may well enjoy, and it's clear that I am in no way the target audience for this film. If I were 10, I would not doubt have enjoyed this film very much! Plenty of gadgets and the odd outburst of childish humour, this film has all the ingredients o
f a wanna be James Bond Junior movie, but even that could not make this even remotely interesting for an adult. Many a time I have watched so called children's movies, and been entertained and impressed (Shrek being a very recent example), but this is one film that is certainly best left to the kids! For me, Rodriguez should stick to the 'proper' filmmaking that has seen him establish himself as such a respected film-writer and director, with such excellent works as Desperado and 'from dusk till dawn', he certainly does not need tat like this on his Filmographie, and hopefully he will learn from this mistake and make a 'proper' film next time! So my advice for this film would be unless you are 10 years old (or have the same mental age) then this is certainly a no-goer and you would be best left saving your money for something else. Unless your forced to take the kids, and dragged along as a result, don't go near. If it's an entertaining kids movie you are after, see the excellent Shrek instead!
Most people don't remember that ''Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'' was written by Ian Fleming. But Robert Rodriguez did when he sat down to write ''Spy Kids'' as a James Bond movie for school-age siblings. Few realize that before he broke through with ''El Mariachi,'' Rodriguez made family comedies. These connections are enjoyably apparent in ''Spy Kids.'' It's lively fun, revolving around a sister and brother called upon to rescue their parents, spies who come out of retirement only to land in trouble. For kids, it's a great fantasy. They get to use a lot of neat stuff to literally keep their family together. And it also goes to a place Hollywood spy movies have hitherto regarded as alien turf - namely the context of a Spanish-speaking culture. Antonio Banderas plays the father in a suave, bumbling, simpatico manner, and Carla Gugino contributes a spicy maternal quality. But the picture belongs to the kids (Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara), who ride miniature jets, dodge sharks in goldfish-shaped submarines, blast around in jet power-packs, and use plastic explosives disguised as bubblegum. They need every bit of their cool gear to go up against Alan Cumming's mutation-making scientist running amok, suggesting, in his over-the-topness, Pee-wee Herman's evil twin. He's the most visible in the troupe of bad guys with names like Floop, Minion, and Mr. Lisp. ''Spy Kids'' - the part that isn't computer-generated - was mostly shot in Rodriguez's hometown of Austin, Texas. (Look carefully during a flashback wedding scene and you can catch the fleeting presences of fellow Texas filmmakers Richard Linklater and Mike Judge, the ''Beavis and Butt-head '' mastermind.) But it's filmed in such a way as to convince us it could be taking place in a Central or South American city (Chilean beachfront scenes were inserted
). So it's more than just a matter of the family's name being Cortez (the father's name is a homage to a legendary piece of Hispanic cinema, ''The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez''). The film looks and feels Hispanic, a fresh, interesting context, and a forward-looking one, especially in view of recent US census findings. And when it mov es to fantasyland, the computer-generated interiors owe a lot to the Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi, with the sinuous massiveness that was his trademark. ''Spy Kids'' is just wacky enough and gadget-driven enough to appeal to bored kids looking for fresh energies. It's also got robot clones and creatures that seem to have been fashioned from Silly Putty, including a small army of giant thumbs that Rodriguez designed when he was 12 years old. Parents will appreciate that the film relies less on violence, and more on the kids outsmarting the evildoers. If you've been lamenting the shortage of family movies, lament no more. Here's one from Austin, with love.
The Kids have been pestering me for some time so when it came to the local cinema off we went. A cross between ‘Home Alone’ and ‘The Matrix’ this was definitely aimed at the older end of the children bracket where I was worried that it would be more like ‘The Goonies’. Directed and written by Robert Rodriguez he is known for action movies such as Dusk till Dawn and Desperado and carries this over in a junior version. The story is set with the kids searching for their identity in the adult world through a number of wild and wacky scenes. Carmen and Juni Cortez (played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) find themselves in the family business i.e. spying when their parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino)are taken prisoner by a children’s TV host Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming). This is all due to them being called back for one last job after nine years of retirement. The kids chase the bad guys on jet packs and speedboats fighting their evil twins, they even manage to set Terri Hatches hair alight. But like all good spy movies the stars are the bad guys. Floops henchmen are thumb creatures and their arms, legs and heads are thumbs. Filled with loads of gadgets and objects I enjoyed the film and was a bit sad when it finished. My favourite was the convertible car with built in microwave for popcorn. An excellent performance by Banderas who gives the movie his all as he did in Zorro. Go and see it you will not be disappointed
Spy Kids is a James Bond adventure for wee ones, with all the trimmings. This affable fantasy begins with Carmen and Juni Cortez soon to find out that their favourite bedtime story, "The Spies Who Fell in Love", is really the story of their parents. When Dad and Mom (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) mess up their first mission after coming out of retirement, their kids must come to the rescue, equipped with some cool gadgets. The Cortez family gets involved in a bizarre plot hatched by a Pee-wee Herman-type entertainer named Fegan Floop (a wonderfully hammy Alan Cumming) that's as giddy as it is ridiculous. Needless to say there is plenty of derring-do concerning long-lost uncles, goofy monsters, double agents, evil robots, look-alikes, and energised chases. Did we mention the gadgets? Although Banderas and Gugino make terrific impressions, the movie is carried (as it should be) by the younger Cortezes, winningly played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara. Who would have thought an action/horror studio (Dimension) and writer-director Robert Rodriquez had this pleasing family film u p their sleeves? Rodriquez (who produced with his wife Elizabeth Avellán) seemed to be mired in cheesy horror films but here breaks out by capitalising on the talent that gave him instant status with his debut, El Mariachi (1992). Spy Kids has plenty of verve but never swerves into potty humour (OK, there is one good potty joke) or wicked gunplay. All 7-year-olds should have a film as fun as this in their film-going lives. --Doug Thomas, Amazon.com