The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D Movie Review
Or maybe that was the story, which feels improvised and inconsequential. The movie is about Max (Cayden Boyd), a fourth-grader with an active imagination, troubles at home, and few friends at school. He is rescued from his misery by two of his own creations, Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley), who spirit him away to the planet Drool. Drool is under attack from fantastical bad guys who bear a striking resemblance to Max's teacher and bully.
Although past Rodriguez films have showcased characters with great ingenuity in improvising their way through violent confrontations (his R-rated movies can be counted on for ripping weapon-prep sequences), the strategies Sharkboy, Lavagirl, and Max employ to fight off this threat are tactically confusing at best. Max seems to have control over the world of Drool, which is based on his dreams, but he must remember his dreams in order to wield control. Sometimes this requires his frequently missing dream journal, but not always. Dream logic dominates, and the movie rambles.
A middling Rodriguez children's film is still more imaginative than most others. The director (slash editor slash cinematographer slash everything) uses inexpensive computer effects to paint landscapes made of cookies, soldiers made of ice, and attack dogs made of electrical wires. The effects work is rarely cutting edge and always great fun to look at. There are moments of wit, and the young actors playing Lavagirl and Sharkboy display a winning grin and scowl, respectively.
But the fact that Sharkboy can be accurately described as a children's film, and not a fantasy or even necessarily a family film, reveals a weakness. The family-friendly Spy Kids movies, even the weak third one, imparted a sense of childlike joy to all ages; during Sharkboy, my mind wandered, and I began to think maybe I was outside of the target audience. The movie feels reverse-engineered, a training ground for kids not quite old enough to appreciate Spy Kids (which is to say, really little kids).
The credits tell us that the film was inspired by the stories and dreams of Rodriguez's son, Racer, and the filmmaker is certainly at home with this innocent sweetness. This is undoubtedly the best show-and-tell project ever. As a feature film, it is only intermittently delightful - and for Rodriguez, that's below par. It evokes a dream world to such a degree that it may evaporate from memory soon after you leave.
The DVD includes 2D and 3D versions (with four sets of glasses for the family), plus a commentary from Rodriguez and a making-of short.
The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.
Show and tell.