The Game's the Thing
In his third installment of the Spy Kids franchise, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez combines elements of Tron, The Matrix and 3-D with limited success. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over follows Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) as he tries to free his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega), who is trapped inside a new video game. In the process, and with a little help from his family and friends, the youngster also saves the world -- of course. Unfortunately, this Juni/Carmen adventure emerges as the first one in which special effects and gadgetry overshadow everything else. Viewers interested in any character development or a substantial plot will be sorely disappointed.
Nevertheless, because of Rodriguez's imaginative direction, watching this movie gave me the feeling of actually being inside a bigger-than-life video game. In fact, wearing those 3-D glasses brought some things too close for comfort, especially during a clunking BattleBots-like combat between Juni and Demetra (Courtney Jines). However, a little 3-D goes a long way for me, and I soon lost interest in the non-stop game action. "Where's Antonio Banderas?" I asked myself. (Granted, I often wonder where he is -- but this time, it seemed quite appropriate.)
Toward the end of the film, Banderas and Carla Gugino, those fearlessly fashionable Spy Parents, do appear, but their roles are insignificant here. And the same thing holds true for other wonderful characters from previous Spy Kids flicks including Sloop (Alan Cumming), Minion (Tony Shalhoub), Dinky Winks (Bill Paxton), Romero (Steve Buscemi), Machete (Danny Trejo) and Grandma (Holland Taylor). However, Ricardo Montalban's Grandpa, who serves as Juni's game mentor, receives more screen time, and I perked up considerably during his scenes. Even in a wheelchair, an aura of majesty surrounds this veteran actor.
Playing the new evil villain, Sylvester Stallone has great fun with this character, a multiple-personality "Toy Maker," and cameos by George Clooney, Salma Hayek and Elijah Wood also add welcome comedy relief. Still, the movie is a mixed bag, one not up to Rodriguez's high standards.
Thankfully, the DVD bonus features are an entirely different story. In a delightful "Ten-Minute Film School" segment, Rodriguez shows off his unique style of filmmaking with his own children as stars. Now I know why sound effects are so important in his flicks! Another informative feature demonstrates how stunts from the film are created. And Alexa Vega absolutely sparkles in her concert performance at the movie's premiere. Eat your heart out, J-Lo.
Also included on the 2-disc DVD are such items as: Feature Commentary by Rodriquez, a Mega Race Set Top Game (in 3-D and 2-D versions), a Pre-Visual Special about Spy Kids 3-D from Concept to Screen, and "An Adventure into the 3rd Dimension" feature about the making of Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.
(Released by Dimension Home Video and rated "PG" for action sequences and peril; bonus material not rated.)