The idea to embark on this madcap venture was not mine, but my friend Max’s. One night at 4 a.m., he asked himself, “Just how good is the Spy Kids franchise?” He seemed to recall it being Very Good, but wanted to confirm this. That’s were I came in. With very little preamble from Herr Maxwell, I received the following gif via text:
Obviously, I couldn’t say no to that. A few days later, we convened at his place, armed ourselves with cold bottles of Shiner, and set out to conquer this franchise in a single go while trying not to dwell on the fact that the Rotten Tomatoes scores for these films steadily decline with each installment.
Spy Kids: What If Pee-Wee Herman Was Evil?
Right out of the gate, we could see that this movie actually has a lot going for it. Antonio Banderas is in most of it and exudes illegal levels of charm. Alan Cumming plays the villain Floop with foppish glee and hosts an evil version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse with his sidekick, Tony Shalhoub. Danny Trejo makes his first appearance as Machete, a role that would come to define his career.
[Sidebar/confession time. This first film is the only one I’d seen before this marathon, and, when I saw it in theaters at the tender age of ten, it scared the bejesus out of me. I remember being horrified to discover that the strange creatures that populate Floop’s TV show were actually captured spies, twisted into gibbering monstrosities and forced to perform for the entertainment of the kids watching the show at home. While this concept is no less disturbing to me now, I was able to get through it all just fine upon realizing that Alan Cumming is about as threatening as a bowl of low-fat yogurt.]
The Cortez family (consisting of kids Carmen and Juni and Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Banderas) ultimately save the mutated spies and face down an army of robot kids with the help of Uncle Machete. And Floop turns out to be a good guy because his heart wasn’t really in the whole forceful mutation thing. Who knew.
Spy Kids 2: What If Steve Buscemi Was God?
So this movie opens with Bill Paxton dressed as a cowboy hanging out at Six Flags. If there is a reason for this, I don’t remember it. Max and I were too busy shouting “IS THAT BILL PAXTON? WHY IS HE A COWBOY? WHY IS HE AT SIX FLAGS?”
This movie isn’t as good as the first one because it has less Antonio, but we do get Ricardo Montalbán as the wheelchair-bound father-in-law, so there’s that. The kids go to an island for some secret mission or something and run into reclusive scientist Steve Buscemi. Science Steve invented a bunch of tiny animals to put in a tiny zoo (okay) but then decided he wanted them bigger so he made a growth potion that got a little crazy and now his island is overrun with giant beasties. Honestly, this entire movie is worth watching for this scene alone, when Steve pontificates about religion as Carmen and Juni look on in uncomfortable silence.
Seriously, nothing can top that weirdly existential moment. There’s also a Jason and the Argonauts-style skeleton fight and a couple of rival spy kids notable for their bratty behavior and their incredible names (Gertie and Gary Giggles).
Paucity of Antonio aside, this movie is okay. So far, Max and I are doing alright.
To be continued in my next post… (Spoilers: the movies get much, much worse.)