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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spy Kids (2001)

Rating: 3.5/4

Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) Cortez don't respect or trust their parents. A story of two spies falling in love told by their mother, Ingrid Cortez (Carla Gugino), is a rare moment when the family is together, excluding their father Gregorio (Antonio Banderas). Their father is very mysterious and keeps many secrets. What they don't know, is that those stories are true. when their parents are captured by genius Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming), and his ruthless partner Minion (Tony Shalhoub) they must learn their parent's secrets along with learning how to be spies in order to save them.

Robert Rodriguez takes his mariachi style direction from violent low-budget action flicks, with the exception of his horror-comedy/family-drama From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), to a family friendly spy-drama. Spy Kids is as commercial as it is sweet and fun. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara have a maturity beyond their years along with the blissful innocence we expect from children their ages. The presence of Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino as Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez, the smokin hot parents of Carmen and Juni Cortez, brings a star-power to a film that doesn't have any household names.

Spy Kids was filmed on a higher budget -- a 50 million budget compared to his next highest of 19 million (From Dusk Till Dawn) -- than Rodriguez had worked with before, that and some high quality visuals are the major differences from the style of his previous films.  Showing a natural gift for entertaining visuals along with crisp storytelling, Rodriguez shows that he is not just a popular director, but also very bankable. Action-Packed with an innocent and sweetly funny script that all ages will enjoy.   Being able to create a family-friendly film that even older ages can enjoy is a task that even directors who dedicate their careers to that task have a hard time achieving. So, Rodriguez, on his first attempt, doing it with such brilliance is an achievement that to be praised for a long time. Spy Kids is Robert Rodriguez's peak for family-friendly films, although it seems as if he has yet to reach his peak with his films of choice. Sin City (2005) was violent, visually stunning, violent, and a major box office success, but since then he hasn't even reached the halfway point of that peak.

13-year-old Alexa Vega steals the show as Carmen Cortez. She plays her character with wit beyond her years and undeniable action talents. Doing most of her own stunts, she shows gifts of a potential action star along with as much emotional talent as you would expect from a sappy, sweet family drama. Outside the Spy Kids series she has faced some trouble; starring mostly in TV shows and virtually unknown dramas. Moving in a more cult path, she starred in the odd horror-rock opera musical Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) which received modest to negative reviews and a very limited release. At 22 she is still young, and still has plenty of time to find her gifts as a mature actress. Her youthful charm is still present in this film along with its two sequels.

As a family drama Spy Kids is sweet and clever, as an action-comedy it is wonderful. Visually impressive with plenty of cool gadgets used along the ride. Taking the oddity of modern children shows and revealing their flaws is a clever little social commentary that is subtle while truthful. Fit for all ages; interesting creatures -- Thumb Thumbs, and all of Floop's Fooglies -- for little kids, immature humor for older children, and action a clever wit for teenagers to adults. Rodriguez uses this film to show off his visual gifts which are impressive in all forms. Don't miss this family-friendly thrill ride, a film of this depth along with sweet innocence doesn't come around very often.

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