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Overall Rating
3.79

Awesome: 25%
Worth A Look56.25%
Average: 1.79%
Pretty Bad: 7.14%
Total Crap: 9.82%

10 reviews, 52 user ratings


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Spy Kids
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by Collin Souter

"The best surprise of the year so far"
4 stars

Some movie miracles sneak up on you and attack from the most unlikely places. Amidst all the brain-fried, creatively-challenged screen-savers out there lurked a movie called “Spy Kids,” a movie I had near the bottom of my must-see list, right beside “See Spot Run,” “Say It Isn’t So,” and “Exit Wounds” (I should have kept “3000 Miles To Graceland” on that list. What ever possessed me?). Why would I want to see some mindless action drivel with two annoying-looking kids as the stars? I never once thought of myself as the target audience.

I have never been a huge fan of its director, Robert Rodriguez. Sure, I enjoyed Desperado on a completely mindless action level, and his audio commentary on the DVD for El Mariachi, a movie he made for only $6000, should be required listening/viewing for any film student. But beyond that, the guy had yet to really blow me away. I’m now convinced that a lot of it had to do with the written material. The script for From Dusk Til Dawn died as soon as Tarantino’s character did. Kevin (Scream) Williamson penned The Faculty, but since it took itself seriously, the movie fell flat. And Rodruiguez’s segment of Four Rooms may have been the best one, but that didn’t make the rest of the film watchable by any means. So, maybe I’ve been mis-judging him.

His latest movie Spy Kids opens with a most confident credit, “A Film By Robert Rodriguez, Written and Directed.” Rodriguez has every reason in the world to be confident. One gets the feeling when watching it that he has waited his whole life to make it. A movie drunk on fantasy and high on life, Spy Kids comes on the screen blazing and never lets up. It vibrates with color, whimsy and gadgets that made me picture James Bond sitting in the audience taking notes. And it has a strong message about family bonds to boot. Yes, believe it or not, the movie with the biggest heart, the smartest brains and the highest amount of innovation and wizardry happens to be made for kids. You’d be a fool to let that stop you from seeing it.

Spy Kids opens with a bedtime story told to the kids Carmen and Juni, wonderfully played by newcomers Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, respectively. Their mother, Ingrid, (Carla Gugino) tells them how she and her husband, Gregorio, (Antonio Banderas) met as secret agents and got married in a dazzling sequence of events that hooks the viewer into this film much in the same way the Coen Brothers did when setting up Raising Arizona. My heart leaped when I saw their parachutes.

“Nice story, mom, but it needs a better ending,” says Carmen, the older of the two kids. Carmen and Juni’s parents have retired from their secret agent lifestyle in order to properly bring up their children. Of course, someone eventually calls upon them to help obtain the Third Brain, created by Floop (Alan Cumming), a Willy Wonka-like TV show host who has a plan to take over the world using robotic children. The androids only need the Third Brain in order for Floop’s plan to work. Soon, Floop’s henchmen, made up of all-thumbs, capture Ingrid and Gregorio and leave them tied up, which I imagine happens more than a few times when you live life as a secret agent.

Carmen and Juni eventually learn of their parents’ other job. With the help of a surrogate Uncle (Cheech Marin), the kids find an escape pod in one of their house’s many secret compartments. The escape pod eventually has them in a chase sequence with Floob’s all-thumb henchmen (dressed in black) chasing them until the pod takes a nose-dive underwater where the kids can take a breath.

At this point, we can’t wait to see what will happen when the kids arrive at Floop’s lair. When the kids arrive, they fight against the henchmen and even take a couple jet-packs and fly their way out, returning the story to the mainland. There, the kids learn of their real uncle, the Q of the story, Uncle Machete (Danny Trejo), who builds all the gadgets the parents and Floop have been using all these years. But years ago Machete and Gregorio had a falling out over…never mind.

Of course, the kids try to employ Machete in helping them rescue their parents. He doesn’t take sides in the issue, which prompts the kids to steal his airplane and do the rescuing themselves taking what they’ve learned from their Uncle while utilizing the workouts they’ve been doing every morning all their lives, and actually using their brains. We have here a movie about kids that doesn’t dumb it down for its target audience. I suspect most kids will watch this movie while constantly saying, “Man, that was cool!” and will walk out of it saying, “I can’t wait to see it again.”

The heart of the movie shines through amidst all the action in many ways. The best scene has Juni and Floop locked away in his “virtual room” after Minion (Tony Shalhoub), Floop’s right-hand man, takes it upon himself to take over the bad guy role. Here, the child teaches the adult to be good and as a sigh of relief, we don’t necessarily have to root against Floop, played wonderfully by Cumming, who seems to have been born for this part.

I realize many people will look at the plot I just described and the four-star rating above and think that I’ve gone completely daft. I understand that completely, but as Lester Bangs says, you have to be honest and unmerciful. So I’ll be honest. I had the same giddy reaction to this movie as I did for Chicken Run. I had such a good time with this film I couldn’t stand it. Hey, one does not only have to give four stars to art films.

I saw a late screening of this movie on April 1st. I had to convince my girlfriend for 10 minutes that I loved it. I really don’t like kids and I certainly hate being in a movie theater packed with them. The theater I went to happened to be near-empty, despite a $27 million opening weekend. I always enjoy the feeling of having a movie theater to myself. However, I kind of wished I had seen it with its core target audience. I really wanted to hear thunderous applause once the young girl spoke the last line of the movie. Instead I had to imagine it along with the applause I wanted to give it. Word has it that Dimension Films has so much confidence in this film that pre-production on the sequel has already begun. Bring it on. This movie rules!

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4708&reviewer=233
originally posted: 04/03/01 23:34:50
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Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

5/27/08 PAUL SHORTT NOT ONLY TERRIFICALLY ENTERTAINING, BUT HAS A GREAT MESSAGE, AS WELL 4 stars
1/10/07 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
4/01/06 Rose Marie the director is crud, the movie is crap!the cast is all wrong and horibble! 1 stars
3/31/06 Anthony Feor A great kid flick 4 stars
3/26/06 Quigley whoa, people, explain the high ratings. it is crap. even antonio banderas didn't save it! 1 stars
9/14/05 Jonathon Holmes great fun 4 stars
8/06/05 Zack What was Robert Rodriguez thinking?!? 1 stars
6/14/05 Agent Sands An overlooked gem. 4 stars
12/10/04 Kristina Williams not a bad kids flick. I can sit through it without howling 4 stars
10/07/04 tatum Big loud fun 4 stars
8/31/04 aussieemmy hey this movie stars Cheech, so any one dissing this movie sucks! 5 stars
8/04/04 Katie This movie is great! The cast is awesome and the story is fun. 5 stars
5/31/04 Nobody Very fakey, somewhat boring, not very funny. 2 stars
12/03/03 Mr. Hat (previously Joe Zappa) It, as well as 2 & 3, are much better than the average kids' movie!! 5 stars
8/30/03 DEVON look, daryl is hot,smart, and turkish, you have a big mouth, you sorry jerk!!! 5 stars
7/26/03 Christian Harding Ideotic humor+some (as in 1 or 2) interesting scenes+weird characters=Spy Kids 3 stars
7/18/03 Chris Entertaing but not without flaws. Still it's style was unseen before. My family enjoyed it. 4 stars
6/20/03 jim movie sucks totall ass, unless ur a 6 year old, be ashamed of urself for liking this movie 1 stars
6/15/03 josh love to see an x-rated virsin 5 stars
6/10/03 Jareth Much better than the last 10 Bonds films 4 stars
2/21/03 scott SHUT UP ALEX THIS MOVIE ROCKS 5 stars
1/27/03 alex why do pussy like andrew patrick watch fuckin kid movies like spy kids, man up u littlegil 1 stars
12/17/02 Laura *Mrs. Floop* This movie is my favourite movie of all time. It is fantasticly made and Floop is gorgeous! 5 stars
8/25/02 Turkish blew total ass poo, jus rent the goonies instead, and andrew patricks a pussy 1 stars
8/17/02 Andrew Patrick Spy Kids Is Probably The Best Spy Movie Ever 5 stars
8/17/02 AJ Go in openminded and knowing its a kid's movie.. Overall it rocks 5 stars
8/16/02 scott great but spy kids 2 is better 4 stars
8/11/02 J I use to love it but after that lame "re-release" and better sequel I'm lowering my rating. 4 stars
7/28/02 spencer stupid shit that would never happen no plot 1 stars
6/11/02 qtpie Antonia Banderas was hot in those working glasses 5 stars
3/11/02 Emilia The bad guy is the weirdest..fits the whole movie 4 stars
1/20/02 Andrew Carden Uncomfortable and Uneven Kiddie Flick. 2 stars
12/26/01 Phil M. Afficianado Very cool. An eyefull of color and activity and imagination. Good spirited, too. Fun. 5 stars
10/16/01 Mr. Hat Some of the stuff is so cool, it makes me jealous because I don't have it. 5 stars
9/25/01 INCUBATOR Not funny, no nothing.....real piece of crap 1 stars
8/10/01 Jessel GREAT flick for the kids who will love it. Banderas is excellent, disliked only by skanks 4 stars
7/17/01 cheryl hated spy kids HATED antonio banderas - a greasy wetback with a lisp. 1 stars
6/22/01 sumair adfd 4 stars
5/20/01 Billy Blah at best 1 stars
5/10/01 Annie Tangalin It's alot funnier than any comedy show I've seen!!! 5 stars
4/21/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Funnier than 8-out-of-10 gross-out comedies you'll see this year...I'm serious... 4 stars
4/20/01 Stephen Booth Appeals on many levels, not to saccerine but sweet enough not to scare the kids. 4 stars
4/17/01 gloria fantastic movie for adults and kids. 5 stars
4/17/01 JustJeff I liked "Play It to the Bone" better - too bad Antonio did whup on the brats in this flick. 1 stars
4/16/01 Rampage perfect for the entire family, Banderas was great 5 stars
4/09/01 The Bomb 69 very entertaining, kids, parents, and grandparents will all love it 5 stars
4/02/01 Danny Del Rossi Not since 'The Princess Bride' have I seen a movie with such multi-generational appeal. 5 stars
4/02/01 orpy Excellent, better than Crouching Tiger! 5 stars
4/01/01 Kevin Neece This film was funny 5 stars
3/31/01 B Monday Most entertaining blast of the past several years! Alexa Vega was terrific in her 1st role 5 stars
3/27/01 film fan Fun! 5 stars
3/25/01 JF Great movie with awesome special effects and characters! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  30-Mar-2001 (PG)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Sep-2001 (PG)




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