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Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Starring: Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Rated: PG
RunTime: 89 Minutes
Release Date: July 2003
Genres: Action, Comedy, Kids

*Also starring: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Sylvester Stallone, Bobby Edner, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Danny Trejo, Robert Vito, Matthew O'Leary, Alan Cumming, George Clooney

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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

For hundreds of years, chess was the game that enraptured the entire world. Chess is a game requiring patience, skill, emotional and intellectual maturity and long years of practice. But then the 20th century rolled around. During the final decade of so of the 1900's and then into the 21st century, games makers came across a problem. To play chess requires that the participants think. So the people that happily part the young 'uns from their parents' well-earned cash invented the video game. Video games are valuable despite the penchant of the players for immediate gratification. They encourage manual dexterity and require athletic coordination. They do not require long and philosophical musings over a board. As laziness increased among the young, making such games too energetic to play, the movies took over, this summer featuring such video- like exercises like "T3" and "Hulk." You don't have to push and pull any buttoms: just sit back, and if you're in an energetic mood, gobble the popcorn. But those blockbusters are violent and not suitable for the 5-11 age group which requires exciting entertainment with less ferocity. Since necessity is the mother of invention, Robert Rodriguez, who began making home movies from the age of 13 and stunned the film world by creating a quality film, "El Mariachi" for $7,000, had an idea. Having reworked "Mariachi" into a new, shaggy-dog movie, "Desperado," he knew he had the cast that could be used for just about anything Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin all appear in his latest venture whose shaggy-dog texture remains but is filled out by the miracle of 3- D technology.

When patrons enter the auditorium, they are given cardboard glasses each bearing a red plastic lens and a blue one. The idea seems to be that if you're not going to be wildly original in the year 2003, why not use a blast from the past? Back in fifties, when I first developed headaches from seeing pics like "House of Wax" and "Bwana Devil" with the strange lenses, I figured that the technology was on the way out. And I was right. The specs were uncomfortable. The movies forgot about plot in their attempts to make people duck and dodge the flying objects headed toward them in their seats. Sure enough, out went the fad, to be revived later by IMAX, with a more sophisticated set of goggles that covered half your head and produced characters who practically sat on your nose. "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over" looks back to the fifties by using pretty much the technology that made "Bwana Devil" an ache in in the head, while looking forward to the age of video games way way forward, it seems, to a time that the violence in these toys would become strictly of a cartoon nature, the heroes and villains virtually winking at you as though to say, "Just kidding, folks."

"Spy Kids 3D" is not a sequel though it employs many of the same performers of the other two versions, "Spy Kids" and "Spy Kids 2", nor does it have the coherent plot that made the first venture in 1998 a solid story. The plot now, such that it is, deals with the need for young Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) to save his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) from the clutches of the evil Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone) whose aim is to rule the world by imprisoning its youth inside the video game. (That's the realistic part.) Juni gets the heads-up from the president of the United States (George Clooney) that he must come out of retirement as a secret agent to rescue his sib. Entering the game with the help of scientists like Francesa Giggles (Salma Hayek, given braids to look 15 years younger), he must go through an obstacle course and rise to level 5, opening the door to allow Carmen to escape. On the way he meets people who are sometimes hostile and competitive and sometimes friendly. Why so? Who knows? The object is to thrill us in the audience by throwing at us everything that's not nailed down metal pieces from the robots that Juni meets, the tongues of frogs lashing out as though the folks in the first row were flies, laser beams from weapons borrowed from the residents of "Star Wars," you- name-it. Juni Cortez may not be Harry Potter, but he has fun his own way. He enlists the help of his wheelchair-bound grandfather (played by Ricardo Montalban who is in reality physically challenged as the result of botched back surgery) and various nerds and strong kids whose trepidations are overcome by the fearsome 11-year-old, leading to the defeat of the wicked Toymaker, who appears to talk to himself a lot but who has been split into four people, each looking strangely like Sly.

With its strong moral message essentially, dig your family and dig the whole world because everyone is your family (sounds like philosopher Peter Singer's point of view) "Spy Kids 3-D" is colorful, amusing, just scary enough to keep the toddlers involved--in short nothing if not an experience in depth.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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