"Remember," Gary Giggles (Matthew O'Leary) warns Carmen and Juni Cortez
(Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara), his rival spy kids, "an agent is only
as good as his gadgets." Therein lies the problem in Robert Rodriguez's
SPY KIDS 2: THE ISLAND OF LOST DREAMS, a movie that manages to succeed
in spite of rather because of its bloated budget. The whole gang
is back from the original SPY KIDS, but this time the spies are slightly
larger, as the advertisements brag in jest. The deliciously funny
acting, however, keeps getting upstaged by the digital effects. Don't
get me wrong, most of the gadgets are great, but the humans are better.
The movie opens in an amusement park run by a slimy owner (Bill Paxton).
Among the hyper-fast rides is an aptly named "Vomiter." Carmen and
Juni are called in when the president's daughter is trapped on a ride.
Competing spy kids, Gerti Giggles (Emily Osment, Haley Joel Osment's
sister) and her brother Gary, show up to try to save the First Daughter
first. Although the acting in the picture is generally quite good,
everyone, save Paxton, appears tired and disinterested in the opening,
which comes off surprisingly flat.
After the disappointing start, the story stays mainly on target.
Alexa Vega, having grown into a teenager since she last appeared as
Carmen, is the only one who is even better than before. She's a real
charmer with spunk to burn. Overall, however, the movie just doesn't
quite rise to the level of the original.
Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino are back as the spy kids' parents,
Gregorio and Ingrid. Also along are Ricardo Montalban and Holland
Taylor as Gregorio's back-seat-driving in-laws. The whole family
tries to outspy each other.
The story, something of a cross between RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and
JURASSIC PARK, involves a cloaked island where pigs fly. The island's
bizarre menagerie was created by its only human inhabitant, a mad
scientist named Romero (Steve Buscemi). All of the strange beasts,
which look like they were created by TOY STORY's Sid, come in exactly
two sizes, tiny and jumbo. Both pairs of rival spies go there to
retrieve a secret device stolen from the president.
As in SPY KIDS, the best part of the picture is the sibling rivalry
and cooperation between Carmen and Juni, who still have great chemistry
together. As the ending credits roll, they get to perform a cute
musical number together. It makes no sense in the context of the
story, but, hey, it's fun.
SPY KIDS 2: THE ISLAND OF LOST DREAMS runs a quarter of an hour too
long at 1:45. It is rated PG for "action sequences and brief rude
humor" and would be acceptable for all but the youngest kids, who
might be frightened by some of the comical monsters.
My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it ***, saying that he liked the kids and the gadgets.
The film opens nationwide in the United States on Wednesday, August
7, 2002. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC, the
Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes