Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Ricardo Montalban, Robert Vito, Ryan Pinkston, Bobby Edner, Courtney Jines
Rated: PG for action sequences and peril.
Running Time: 89 min.
Parental Notes: Although some sequences may frighten very young children or kids afraid of heights, this film is harmless for kids under 10. Teens and adults, however, may find the cliches, lack of plot, and general incoherence tiresome.
There’s something magical about 3-D films. Movies can seem to reach out of the screen emotionally, but it’s something else to have a movie literally seem to reach out of the screen at you.
“Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” succeeds as a kids’ movie because it has that magic, as well as well-meaning sweetness and a dollop of humor. This isn’t a movie for grownups, it’s a movie for kids who don’t mind cliches yet and who will be dazzled by seeing their heroes reaching out of the screen at them.
The plot is as straightforward as the two previous “Spy Kids” movies: former child spy turned private eye Juni Cortez and his sister, Agent Carmen Cortez (Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega) must stop a diabolical madman from taking over the world. As usual, one of the Cortez clan is in danger: this time it’s Carmen, who’s been taken captive by The Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), creator of a full-immersion video game for children.
The Toymaker plans to imprison the youth of the world and use them to escape from his cyberspace prison and rule the world. Juni must battle through several levels of the game to save his sister, then together they must find a way to shut down the game before it is released to the world.
The game itself is a thrill, full of 3-D excitement. There are battling robots, thrilling races, lava surfing sequences, and bizarre monsters. We see Juni fly through space, learn to pilot a giant robot, and fight his way through obstacle after obstacle with the help of a trio of beta-testers he meets on the way.
The 3-D effect is created with old-fashioned 3-D glasses, the kind made of cardboard and plastic with one red lens and one blue lens. This makes colors look a bit strange, but is still effective. It also gives a delightfully odd tinge to the video game sequences (the only ones in 3-D), which plays well into the film.
Although the movie thrills visually, it leaves a great deal to be desired in plot, character, and originality. While kids will doubtless be happy to take it at face value, laughing at the puns and enjoying the excitement of 3-D, teens and parents will likely be annoyed by the gaping holes in the plot. The film makes no attempt to hide these. In one memorable scene, Juni asks how and why the Toymaker was imprisoned in cyberspace. The only explanation: “Who knows? It was years ago!”
Likewise, very little effort is put into acting, and one gets the impression that director Robert Rodriguez was too caught up in the thrill of making a heavily-digitized and 3-D film to create something with the warmth and joy of the first two “Spy Kids” movies. Antonio Banderas and the other adults are hardly used at all, although every interesting grown-up from the previous films is given a cameo.
However, the film is practically guaranteed to be a hit with kids, and parents may appreciate a break from the bathroom humor that permeates so many children’s movies these days. While there’s plenty of humor in “Spy Kids 3-D,” it’s chiefly of the visual and pun-oriented variety, with nary a fart joke or poop reference to be found.
Overall, “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” is a movie kids will probably love, but which parents may find at best dull and at worst painful. It’s not terrible, but it’s no “Toy Story.” Parents might want to find a teenaged babysitter to pay to take the kids to see it.