Spy Kids Trilogy
Many directors as they build their careers move towards specializing in a specific genre. Even with that a director known for one type of film may try another if for nothing else ad a means to experiment with technique or diversify their portfolio, even the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock has an uncharacteristic comedy in his list of credits. One most cinephiles hear the name Robert Rodriguez the thought that might naturally come to mind is placing him among the directors of some of the most violent films in recent years. This assessment would be accurate and based on the list of examples of his best known works. This is only part of the man’s range and expression of his talent. Fact is in an earlier phase of his career Rodriquez was well on his way to becoming a director of family oriented action comedies. This man who helped to restore interest in the venerable movie venue of the grind house also brought the world the popular family franchise of ‘Spy Kid’, the collection of the first three installments of which are under deliberation here. These are fun flick that readily provide laughs, action and age appropriate intrigue as an espionage light set of movies. The film maker has stated that his goal in creating these flicks was to place James Bond in a Willie Wonka like wonderland. To this end he succeeded nicely providing a lasting treat for the entire family to enjoy together. All three of these movies hold together over time and with a fourth member of the franchise on its way the studio released a four disc edition of the tree movies. The third had a 3D theatrical release using the old style two color cellophane glasses. This film is afforded two discs, one for regular 2D and a separate disc containing the 3D effect as described. It’s not up to the current 3D technology but it was standard for a good number of years. You might want to consider getting this three movie pack along with Rodriquez’s other notable kids flick; ‘The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl’. This can get you through a rainy weekend without driving the grown-ups crazy.
The back story to set up the series is efficiently dispatched early in the first movie. It begins as a variation of a classic literary them, the star crossed lovers. It is taken to an extreme in the case of a pair of professionally spies for hire; Gregorio Cortez (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid Avellan (Carla Gugino) who wound up taking assignments to kill each other. The mutual hunt must have been a turn on since the deadly pair quickly fall in love and get married. They decide to retire in order to raise a family but about ten years later are both called back to active duty. They did keep a finger in the business with separate gadget rich communications councils in their family home. After such a long hiatus the pair is rusty and soon found themselves being held captive by their adversary. With mom and dad missing it is up to their two kids, Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara), to figure out the family business with son on the job training. To help them out they turn to the only grown up they can trusted, their Uncle Machete (Danny Trejo), the estranged family ‘Q’ section. He is a master of the spy gadget who makes sure the kids are properly prepared with devices that are a synthesis of Bond’s requisite items and Inspector Gadget. These items perform most of the same purposes as their more realistic Bond counterparts conveniently providing exactly what is needed at the moment to extract them from mortal danger.
In the first film the rouge’s gallery includes Alexander Minion's (Tony Shalhoub) who is busy creating an army of robots that look like children include a pair that are duplicates of Carmen and Juni. As his name implies he is only a solider villain, the brain behind the insidious plot is the criminal genius Mr. Lisp (Robert Patrick). He intends to launch his scheme through the popular children’s series hosted by Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming). The flamboyant Floop will go on to be a regular for the franchise appearing in the subsequent two films.
In the second film, ‘Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams’, the (Organization of Super Spies), OSS, have brought Carmen and Juni on board ass operatives. At this stage of the franchise the films are sufficiently well known to attract established and upcoming stars. Here the kids discover they have rivals with Gary (Matt O'Leary) and Gerti Giggles (Emily Osment), the children of double agent Donnagon Giggles (Mike Judge). Things start moving when an incident in an amusement park involving the President's daughter (Taylor Momsen). Momsen is currently a controversial singer and actress of the teen series, ‘Gossip Girl’s’ Osment is the sister of Academy Award-nominated actor Haley Joel Osment and featured star of ‘Hannah Montana’. Judge is the creative mind behind Bevis and Butt-head and ‘King of the Hill’. The main villain here is directly taken from the Bond playbook; Romero (Steve Buscemi). He has his own island stronghold complete with genetically altered tiny animals. The film concludes with Juni retiring from the OSS in order to form his own agency. This carries over to the third film; ‘Spy Kids 3D’. The star power is ramped up with the co-stars giving the adults something to pull them in. Sebastian the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone) creates a video game that hypnotizes the children playing it. Carmen is dispatched to get to the bottom of the plot but is lost on one of the levels of the game. Juni feels overwhelmed and looks to his maternal grandfather, Valentin Avellan (Ricardo Montalban, who despite being confined to a wheel chair has plenty of fight left in him.
Collectively the films do provide a strong view of the importance of family. They may encounter problems along the way but their greatest strength is found when they pull together. Rodriquez is careful to show the Hispanic culture in a way that children of all backgrounds can come to appreciate it. overall these films are fun, energetic and suitable for family enjoyment.