Spy Kids 3D: Game Over

(Robert Rodriguez, USA, 2003)


For those who have ever gone cross-eyed or felt the first throb of a migraine after peering into a Magic Eye puzzle, this third film in Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids series should probably come with a health warning attached.


I spent half the running time of this terrible movie experimenting with the souvenir 3D glasses handed out at the candy bar. Should they be worn over, under, or in place of my regular spectacles? Alas, no arrangement could guarantee the successful union of colour, focus and three-dimensional immersion.


Not that there’s much to be immersed in. A throwback to naïve techno-fantasies of the ‘80s like Electric Dreams (1984), the plot hurls young Juni (Daryl Sabara) into a video game to recover his older sister, Carmen (Alexa Vega, who sings a pleasant pop tune over the closing credits).  The presiding cyber-villain (split into four figures trying desperately to out-mug each other) is Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), and his rendezvous with destiny comes in the form of Juni’s Grandpa (Ricardo Montalban).


However, every turn in the get-to-the-next-game-level intrigue is overwhelmed by the lumbering obligations imposed by the 3D technology which hardly seems to have advanced since the 1950s. Actors stare blankly into space and make frantic grabs at special effects whose sole raison d’etre is to shoot into the bulging foreground.


Rodriguez (Desperado, 1995) was once a promising filmmaker but, like so many of his Miramaxed generation, he is now running on empty. The steep decline between the freshness of the first Spy Kids (2001) story and this self-titled ‘End Game’ can be gauged in the way it treats the theme of family.


In Spy Kids this was a novel, spirited, even moving theme, especially in the way parents and children bonded through their mutual, outrageous adventure. Here, the adults (Carla Gugino and Antonio Banderas) are reduced to mere cameos, rendering the final chant (“To family!”) hollow. And even the gormless Juni greets the handy wisdom that “Everyone is family” with appropriate scepticism: “But that’s meaningless!”

Rodriguez: Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City, From Dusk till Dawn


MORE pre-teen movies: BMX Bandits, Max Keeble's Big Move

© Adrian Martin January 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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