NOSTALGIA LANE MOVIE REVIEW: “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams” stars Daryl Sabara (A Christmas Carol , John Carter), Alexa PenaVega (Sleepover, Machete Kills), Antonio Banderas (Shrek 2, Desperado), Carla Gugino (Wayward Pines [TV miniseries], Night at the Museum), Steve Buscemi (Big Daddy, Boardwalk Empire [TV series]), Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead [TV series], King of the Hill [TV series]), Matt O’Leary (Frailty, Brick), Emily Osment (Hannah Montana [TV series], Cyberbully [TV movie]), Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island [TV series], The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!), Holland Taylor (The Truman Show, Legally Blonde), Danny Trejo (Machete, Heat), Cheech Marin (The Lion King, Cars), Alan Cumming (X2: X-Men United, The Good Wife [TV series]), and Christopher McDonald (The Iron Giant, Happy Gilmore). It is written and directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Shorts). The Cortez family is back in this sequel to the “classic” film “Spy Kids”. When Carmen (PenaVega) and Juni (Sabara) are stripped of their access to the spy business, OSS, because of letting a deadly device fall into the wrong hands, they try to get the device back by finding a way back into the OSS and stealing a submarine. This can then lead them to a mysterious island which is said to be the place where the bad guys are keeping the device. But, while on the island, they uncover so much more secrets which can change their whole viewpoint of the mission at hand.
The “Spy Kids” franchise: well-loved in my early childhood (probably because it is kids doing adult spy work), but cringe-worthy when I grow up. I chose this film mainly because it was the only one I own, being on VHS, but I think the one I mostly remember is the third entry, “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over”. It was revolutionary in my young age, receiving 3-D glasses to watch it. I remember how amazed I was. Just thinking back to scenes of that film now doesn’t make me feel good. The problem is, these movies are geared towards one specific audience in one specific time era: kids of the early 2000’s. Anywhere outside of that range is bound to make it not great to watch. The special effects aren’t that good and the dialogue isn’t the best, but for some reason it fits well with this director’s style. If you ever watch a “Spy Kids” movie, in which they are all directed by Robert Rodriguez himself, you will see that this guy goes for a cheap way to run things. There are green screens or small rooms used most of the time and the dialogue doesn’t scream blockbuster, but a trying one. Because of how he makes it his style, it kind of falls into place since it shouldn’t be taken seriously. The acting isn’t the best, with only a few good performances, mainly Antonio Banderas and Steve Buscemi. There are some other adult actors who can act well in this, but they are more of a supporting fare because this film focuses on kids. Sabara’s Juni and PenaVega’s Carmen can pull off solid acting sometimes, but others don’t land. The other children in this aren’t that great either. I can tell they are trying, so I guess that’s a plus. Another aspect of this film that you can’t take seriously is the situation at hand. The villain is lame as well as any evil person in this movie so really you are along for the exploration of the island, which I will save that viewpoint for the end of this review. Along with the characters comes jokes that don’t fly often, with me laughing at the performances rather than with them. Some do land, however, which I do get a kick out of. One thing, I must get over before we move on is how the production company, Troublemaker, plugs in their business in the beginning. I have never seen this much of a plug-in in a movie before. To explain it to you, what they did was they were at this theme park which is called “Troublemaker park” or something like that and all the rides have their logo. How can you get any more obvious than that!? I’ve said before about the special effects, so I will go in-depth with that subject. What used to be good animation or CGI to me when I was much younger looks awful in a lot of places. Especially when watching it on a VHS, which doesn’t offer the best video quality. They rely heavily on CGI in this film and because of that, it will get to the point where it is too outdated to watch. The monsters on the island look funny and so do skeletons. Rooms that they are in or backdrops of landscape look fake most of the time, but it is all that you have to brush off in order to enjoy. That is the major con of this film, the amount of things you have to toss over your shoulder to get through. I said that it is cringe-worthy and it is at times. But that con fades at times because, like I said, this director works with this style so really you can’t take it as anything accidental. Do I like this style? Not entirely, but it is different. I don’t see any directors working it this way, which is a justifiable reason, so this guy is special at what he does. Now, besides his directing, the story of this film isn’t all terrible. Once they get to the island, there are really cool features of it. Once they meet Steve Buscemi, he says quite a few deep lines to think about and the whole structure of the island is cool as well as his invention. If you threw me a director like Christopher Nolan in a time like today to make this film about this island, I would watch it and most likely enjoy it. He hits it right with these things, but the execution of acting and cheesiness can make it fall flat. In the end, this film wasn’t as bad as I feared and it can be enjoyable. It has its moments where you spasm because of cringing, but overall it is watchable. I liked ideas of it and the directing is something different if not that good. FINAL SCORE: 60%= Burnt Popcorn
The score of this movie has been altered. It does not affect the Movie of the Year running for 2015. I don’t know what I was thinking when I rated this, because it can be awful to watch at times.
Here is the trailer: