Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Reviewed By Collin Souter
Posted 08/10/03 16:18:46

"Could this signal the return of Odorama?"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

“Spy Kids 3D: Game Over” should not be seen when in a bad mood. I made the mistake of going to see SK3 expecting it to cheer me up when I felt depressed, angry and unmotivated. I’m a big fan of the first film, felt disappointed by its sequel, “Island of Lost Dreams,” but still had high hopes for its new 3-D installment. I wanted to see this movie, just not at the moment. I dragged myself to this movie in the hopes that it would cheer me up. After all, how could a 3-D movie, especially one that comes pre-packed with a likable cast of characters, make me feel worse than I already did?

Simple, really. I couldn’t enjoy SK3 because I had to work to enjoy it. I had to sit in the back row in a packed theater on a Saturday afternoon. I had to constantly adjust my 3D glasses over my real glasses because I found that some of the effects didn’t have their desired, er, effect. Objects went double when they should have been coming towards me. Was it me? Was it my glasses? Was I sitting in a bad place? How come I had to do a costume change during this movie (“Glasses On!…Glasses Off!…”)? If this movie did not come out in 3D, would I enjoy it? Probably not. Too noisy, too slick and not as much heart as the original. I walked out depressed even more.

Still, I promised myself a second viewing when I would be in a better mood. A few days later, I was in a great mood and knew I should go. I sat in a better place, accepted the fact that not all 3D effects work and tried to remind myself of a time when I was 10 or 11 when I saw one of the coolest double features of all time: “Treasure of the Four Crowns” and “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone.” Both at the Town & Country Theater, both terrible, both in 3D. I could also remember seeing the equally bad “Amityville 3-D,” and who in that era could forget trying to watch “Creature From the Black Lagoon” on TV when the 3-D only worked for about three seconds? I laughed to myself. I felt good about this whole ridiculous 3-D thing again.

And “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” can be pretty fun if you let yourself go with it. Sure the 3-D effect can be bothersome at times, but when they work, they work splendidly. You just have to get over the fact that the color exists in a constant purple-ish tint (professional cinematographers, beware!). A chase scene on speeder bikes gets the most excitement out of the process, as does the occasional floating object that one of the characters must grab in order to make it through the video game in which this movie takes place.

This time around, Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) has abandoned the family spy practice to try his own hand at being a private detective, but it just doesn’t feel the same. The family needs him, but he has resigned. Not until he learns that his sister, Carmen (Alexa Vega) has hacked into a video game and remains stuck inside it does Juni take an interest. The game was designed by, oddly enough, Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), whose plan is to trap all kids who play the game, mainly through Level 5, an un-winnable level.

With a little help from some special cameos, Juni goes inside the game, at which point the screen flashes to the audience “GLASSES ON!” At this point, and for about an hour, the movie exists in 3-D. Juni gets some help from a group of kids who also know the game, as well as a girl, Demetra (Courtney Jines), for whom Juni feels smitten. The Levels come in usual video game form, from creatures on pogo sticks that they must dodge to a virtual robot fight to a one-on-one duel. One of Juni’s relatives, his Grandfather (Ricardo Montalban) joins in to help him, this time discarding the wheelchair in favor of a muscular, walking robot-like mechanism (hey, it’s a video game).

This “Spy Kids” installment works better than “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams” not only because of the 3-D, but also because of the new characters. I found the child actors (barring the stars) of SK2 unbearably annoying, but here they’re likable kids who know video games, and when their true identities become revealed to us, it seems to fit. They’re simply kids, whereas in the second film, they were just brats trying to be adults.

This one also works better because the heart does not get lost amidst all the gadgetry and slick production design. Even the 3-D doesn’t distract from the moment between Juni and his Grandfather when the elder asks his grandson to never forget how heroic Grandfather looks without the wheelchair. It’s a wonderful moment, one that made me forget I had three pairs of eyes in me.

Cameos pop in and out of SK3 and they can be fun to watch, especially one involving “the one” true game leader, a joke I wouldn’t dream of giving away. Sylvester Stallone does so-so as the villain, but for some reason he has three personalities that he must interact with, all of them played by him. It doesn’t quite work. One is a lunk head dressed as an English policeman, one a nebbish scientist and the third, a New Age hippie. Stallone tries, but the overall effect is one of a guy looking funny without actually being funny.

I’m guessing this will be it for the “Spy Kids” franchise, unless of course we get some straight-to-video installments. I’m also guessing I might have a different reaction to SK3 if and when I view it on video sans 3-D. For now, I’m sticking with the first film. It’s blazing opening sequence and its colorful imagination combined with its crystal clear message on the importance of family still brings the biggest smile to my face. Perhaps I should have stayed home that day I first saw it and watched the original on DVD. Neither of the sequels equaled the experience of the original, but at least here I could feel Rodriguez trying. When he succeeds, all the effort I had to make in order to enjoy SK3 seemed worth it.

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