Spy Kids is a fun little movie that kids will enjoy and even adults might find amusing. The acting by the kids was actually decent enough and unlike so many other child actors, they never got on my nerve which is a feat in itself.
Genre(s): Family, Action, Comedy, Fantasy
Miramax | PG – 91 min. – $19.99 | August 2, 2011
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Writer(s): Robert Rodriguez (written by)
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Teri Hatcher, Danny Trejo
Theatrical Release Date: March 30, 2001
Features: 5 Featurettes, Trailer, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
There are times when one raises their eyebrows when you realize a movie launched a franchise: The Fast and the Furious just released its fifth film (with #6 coming in 2013), Final Destination is set to release their first installment soon and of course the Saw movies went on for about 19 sequels give or take. Now we’ve got the Spy Kids franchise with #4 coming out in August (8 years since the last one). I guess I knew there were a few sequels but it’s the types that fall under the radar if you’re either not a parent or are not in the target demographic.
The first one that started it all, Spy Kids stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino as Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez who fell in love after their last mission was to kill the other. Ingrid tells this story to her son and daughter, Juni (DARYL SABARA) and Carmen (ALEXA VEGA), who are the typical film children: wiser beyond their years… They don’t believe the story taking it as a fairy tale and with the parents now retired it would remain that way until they are called back into action.
Well, this was a rouse to get them out in the open by the maniacal Fegan Floop (ALAN CUMMING), host of a zany children’s morning show with odd-looking characters which turn out to be transformed agents and now the Cortez parents are next to become characters. There’s other motives going on as Floop, with the help of his right hand man Minion (TONY SHALHOUB), as a man named Mr. Lisp (ROBERT PATRICK) has ordered an army of robots which Floop has decided to create an army of child robots but there’s one component missing: a brain. See, the kids cannot talk and thus cannot even pass off as being real. That’s where Gregorio comes in as he created a tiny bionic brain that could be used.
Now it’s up to Carmen and Juni to use their parents’ hidden gadgets to kick butt and save the day before Floop and his army of robot kids infiltrate society and… um… control the world?
Spy Kids is no doubt a dumb movie featuring some spotty acting from the kids, bewildered looks from some of the adults as they know what kind of movie they’re in and visual effects that’s borderline though works into the style of the film. Robert Rodriguez, though, manages to present a film that kids will absolutely love and parents could at the very least tolerate as it is a fun take on the spy genre made for kids.
In terms of the cast, both Banderas and Gugino are fine as the lead adult actors and they seem to have a fun time with the material with Banderas overdoing some scenes for laughs, not unlike his performance in The Legend of Zorro, while Gugino once again looks great and plays off her on-screen husband well enough. Alan Cumming and Tony Shalhoub play it up to the extreme though I guess as the film’s primary villains; they’re not too scary for little kids and as with the others, play it up for laughs than an actual threat. Again, kids might find the pair funny while adults might get a chuckle as they think how dumb it all is.
Then there’s the child actors Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara who are both at this point early in their careers with Vega having previously appeared in a handful of films such as The Deep End of the Ocean and Ghosts of Mississippi while Sabara marks his feature film debut (he has since appeared in Havoc 2, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Machete). Although I don’t think they’re great, I didn’t get nearly as annoyed as I do when watching other child actors who substitute acting with mugging for the camera and rely on precociousness to get by. Vega and Sabara have enough of that needed charm to pull off the roles well enough.
All in all, Spy Kids for movie aimed at kids isn’t that bad. There were a few funny moments that make some of the more lamer parts palpable.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.75/5
Growing Up Spy Kids (48:10; HD) – This is a 2-part making-of featurette covering the development of the series and includes some behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew and reaction to how it was received by audiences and the money it made at the box office. It includes archive interviews and some newer material with Rodriguez and the two kids all grown up.
Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School (8:06; HD) – Ok, so it’s not quite ten minutes but here Rodriguez shows how some of the visual effects were accomplished for the first Spy Kids movie.
Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Cooking School (6:04; HD) – Here the writer/director/etc puts on his cooking hat and shows us how to make a Texas Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich and fruit smoothies. He’s accompanied by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara to help.
Stunt Piece (6:48; SD) is a featurette showing off some of the stunt work done on the film. It’s nothing special but gives a glimpse at the effort that goes into the stunts.
Special Effects Piece (7:03; SD) is similar with more behind-the-scenes footage as we get to see how some of the effects work got done.
There’s also a Teaser Trailer (1:59; SD), the Theatrical Trailer (2:14; SD) and a second disc containing the Digital Copy.
Previews – Spy Kids 4, Alpha and Omega, Battle for Terra and Thor: Tales of Asgard.
VIDEO – 3.5/5
Spy Kids is presented in its original 1.85 aspect ratio and with the debut on Blu-ray (1080p resolution) it looks alright, although it’s a tad disappointing considering films older than it, even ones from the mid-90s, look a whole lot better. When you get to close-up shots, the details look a lot better but between the distant shots and some of the visual effects elements that’s when things get murky. Colors are well balanced for the most part while the black levels are fine though I did notice a scene or two where the film noise and pixilation was noticeable.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The Blu-ray comes with an effective DTS-HD MA 5.1 track which gets the job done. It’s not quite as dynamic when compared to other Blu-rays released around the same time but it’s satisfactory enough with clear dialogue and a little depth during the action sequences.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Spy Kids is a fun little movie that kids will enjoy and even adults might find amusing. The acting by the kids was actually decent enough and unlike so many other child actors, they never got on my nerve which is a feat in itself. As far as the Blu-ray goes, the video and audio are both good, making this a fine upgrade – at the right price – over the DVD version.