Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams Movie Review

Robert Rodriguez is slowly losing his luster as a unique filmmaker. Since his ultra-low-budget El Mariachi became one of indie film's biggest successes, Rodriguez has created some masterful works such as Desperado and From Dusk to Dawn while delivering such monstrosities such as The Faculty (three words: Harry Knowles cameo) and one segment of the ungodly Four Rooms. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams stands as Rodriguez's biggest disappointment in his sporadic career, a homogenous and formulaic attempt in continuing the exploits of master spy kids Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) Cortez in their pursuit of truth and justice before bedtime.

This time around, Carmen and Juni are in competition with a rival Spy Kids duo of Gary Giggles (Matthew O'Leary) and his sister Gerti (Emily Osment, sister of Haley Joel) for top assignments and duties. When Juni is falsely accused of failing to save an antimatter device from the hands of the evil Dr. Romero (Steve Buscemi) and his brood of magnetic men, he is fired from the Spy Kids network. Alas, his ingenious sister Carmen hacks his Spy Kid status and re-assigns them to the mysterious island home of Dr. Romero in pursuit of the antimatter device.

After losing contact with the Spy Kids network due to the island's cloaking device, Juni and Camen's parents Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) plus Grandpa (Richardo Montalban) and Grandma (Holland Taylor) Cortez suit up to find their missing kids. On the island, Juni and Carmen learn the true nature of the mysterious Dr. Romero, battle Harryhausen-esque monsters, encounter Clash of the Titans creatures, and discover the greatest enemies are found within your own campground.

One of the many deficient elements in this chapter of the Spy Kids saga is a cohesive and imaginative plot structure. Even though the original film was no intellectual masterpiece, it retained a mystical and enchanting tone that captured both the attentions of its main core audience of children plus their parental units in tow. This time around, the whole thing delves into Land of the Lost and Jason and the Argonauts territory and misplaces the crucial three-dimensional characters and intriguing plot developments with goofy and fantastical creatures and a confusing storyline of corporate espionage, the power of magnetism, and rival Spy Kid units battling for glory and all-access badges.

The first 20 minutes of the film are sharp and crisp and include the highlight of the film, courtesy of a brilliant Bill Paxton cameo, but it slowly loses its momentum and interest. The new, haughty attitudes of Carmen and Juni undermine the original emotional connections and genuine naiveté evident in their characters in the first film. Coupled with a distracting subplot of rival Spy Kids and their megalomaniac father figure Donnagon (Mike Judge), Rodriguez fails to generate any difficult challenge for Carmen and Juni to face.

The last act of the film becomes oversaturated with blue-screen shoots, digital effect monstrosities, and numerous blatant attempts to rekindle the magical mysterious of the original Spy Kids film. The mad scientist character lacks the critical depth and unpredictability crafted so well in the original Spy Kids.

The film delivers the usual spat of familiar individuals from the first film - Uncle Machete (Danny Trejo), Floop (Alan Cummings), Uncle Felix (Cheech Marin), and Minion (Tony Shahloub) - and incorporates a variety of gadgets and devices that somehow seem a bit less glamorous and inventive than their predecessors. Even though Spy Kids 2 confirms Rodriguez is an ingenious cinematographer, the film exposes his inability as a writer. In fact, he really should have just renamed the film Spy Kids 2: Bob and Harvey Weinstein Love Sequels.

Rodriguez pulls out all the stops for the SK2 DVD, but one wishes he'd put that energy into the film. His 10-minute "film school" extra shows you how to make a big movie on a small budget, and unfortunately it really shows with the sequel's lame effects and almost boring, derivative story. Deleted scenes and commentary track all go into great detail about how Rodriguez makes a film -- unfortunately, all of those details involve the use of green screens. Snooze.

Real spies, only more annoying.


Comments

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG, 2002

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