Spy Kids 3(D): What If Willy Wonka Designed Video Games?
Okay, this is where things start to get a little… well… silly, let’s say. I’m… I’m just going to list some things that happen.
- Carmen’s trapped in a video game so Juni has to team up with the nerdiest nerds ever to nerd in order to save her
- Sly Stallone designed the video game and is trying to trap kids in it but is also trapped in the video game but is also schizophrenic and somehow not evil in the end
- President George Clooney does his best Sly Stallone impression (it’s not bad at all)
- Elijah Wood appears, only to die instantly
- Ricardo Montalbán (henceforth “Grandpa Khan”) gets a virtual robot suit and chases butterflies on the Moon
This flick mostly exists to showcase a parade of obnoxious “3D” effects (Max and I tried to make a drinking game out of every in-your-face moment, but we quickly recognized this to be a poor life choice). However, all the weird, inexplicable plot points and random virtual obstacles are ultimately worth it for the inordinately satisfying showdown at the end of the movie.
Here’s the setup: Some robots start attacking the city and the Spy Kids™ decide they need some extra firepower to take ’em down. Enter… Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Banderas! Alan Cumming and his sidekick, Tony Shaloub! Steve Buscemi riding a flying pig! Cheech Marin! The Giggle siblings! Uncle Machete! Bill Paxton! Literally everybody shows up to kick some ass. And it may have been the delirium of sitting through approximately four-and-a-half hours of technicolor madness, but Max and I cheered aloud when these familiar faces showed up again. It felt like Rodriguez rewarding us for sticking with the franchise as long as we did (though that may have been a desperate leap of logic on our part).
If the last few minutes of #3 is Robert Rodriguez graciously shaking our hands for joining him for a fun evening, #4 is Rodriguez bludgeoning us with a tire iron for overstaying our welcome at his dinner party.
Spy Kids 4: What If We Made A Huge Mistake In Watching These?
Coming off the hype of the showdown at the end of 3, Max and I braced ourselves for some disappointment. And man, this last film sure did not disappoint in the disappointment department.
There were virtually none of the characters we’d grown to (kind of) care about- just a couple of bratty kids and their talking robot dog (voiced by an astonishingly unfunny Ricky Gervais). Joel McHale plays the kids’ dad and, to his credit, he acts his heart out for this role. But his dad-ly earnestness cannot save this collection of poop and fart jokes Rodriguez tries to pass off as a movie.
Oh yeah- and it turns out the bad guy (surprise, surprise) ISN’T a bad guy at all and is just trying to manipulate time to see his dad again (I think). And we get another weirdly deep moment with our villain, Jeremy Piven (a la Steve Buscemi in Spy Kids 2):”Time is the enemy of youth,” he intones. “I’m getting mine back.” Okay, dude.
Spy Kids 4D: All the Time in the World ultimately lives up to its name, in that it seems to last for the duration of eternity.
Takeaways from this crazy-ass franchise:
- Robert Rodriguez is actually really creative. Barring the outright badness of #4, I think most of my exhaustion after finishing the series could be likened to listening to a hyperactive 10-year-old tell a story for about 5 hours. After that much wild, zany inventiveness, I need a reality break.
- Since Max and I both hail from Texas, we got a kick out of spying (haha) familiar filming locations throughout the series (Austin, Arlington, San Antonio). It’s always fun to say you’ve been to a place that’s shown up on a multiplex screen.
- Maybe this is me reading too much into the series, but I spied (okay, I’ll stop) a couple of significant instances where Rodriguez works characters with disabilities into his plots. And the cool thing is that these moments are actually executed pretty skillfully. Grandpa Khan is reluctant to leave the virtual world where he can run and jump because he doesn’t want his grandson to think him any less a hero when he’s wheelchair-bound. The little brother in the last film is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids, but he’s no less capable than his older sister, who has no such disability herself. Good for you, Rodriguez.
And there you have it. I’m glad to have been your cinematic sherpa on a journey you had no intention of embarking upon yourself. I’ll keep you posted on any other ridiculous ventures I decide to tackle.