Spy Kids

Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Daryl Sabara, Alexa Vega, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub.
MPAA Rating: PG for action sequences.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <evy@filmhead.com>
April 3, 2001

I have a weakness for explosions, gratuitous violence, over-the-top acting, and genre parodies. No director combines theses ingredients better than Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, and The Faculty). I knew Spy Kids' PG rating would tame Rodriguez's violent tendencies but I was still excited to see what he would do with the family film and spy adventure genres.

Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino play Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez: two former full-time spies who fell in love, raised a family and now work as consultants/part-time spies. Their children Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) don't know their parents' real profession and wish to escape their boring lives. Juni does this by immersing himself in the kiddie TV show "Floop's Fuglies", and Carmen skips school to take the bus into the city in order to find excitement. Their lives are disrupted and endangered when Gregario and Ingrid are called back into active duty.

Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming) is really an "evil genius" who, along with his sidekick, Minion (Tony Shalhoub), has captured the world's best spies and transformed them into fuglies, cartoon like mutants, which he forces to work on his TV show. The fuglies can only speak backwards and the tuneless ditty they sing on the show is really a call for help. Gregario and Ingrid set out to stop Floop but are easily captured. Juni and Carmen learn of their parents professions from their fake Uncle Felix (Cheech Marin), get nifty spy gadgets from their real Uncle Machete (Danny Trejo), and set off to overcome their own fears and find their parents.

I was not disappointed with the parody or the performances. There is plenty of poking fun at spy conventions and kids' television shows. I particularly liked the silliness of all the spy gear -- especially how it fails in useful and predictable ways. Having the villain be a kids' show host is also brilliant and leads to many jokes on the disturbing nature of shows like "Teletubbies".

The adult acting is deliciously overdone. Alan Cumming is both sweet and demented as the villain/TV personality who is more obsessed with his ratings than his evil schemes. He also sings beautifully and the opening number of Floop's Fuglies is my favorite moment. Tony Shalhoub gets to show off his comedic range as the multifaceted Minion and Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino are highly entertaining and marginally sexy (this is a PG film after all) as the parents. It is always nice to see Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn, The Replacement Killers) on screen and I was quite pleased that he had lines and some resemblance of a character other than "scary bad guy."

I was disappointed with Spy Kids' overall effect. Throughout the film I felt both entertained and dissatisfied. The movie is not as tight as Rodriguez's other films. Interaction between the characters is underdeveloped and the plot gets tangled up in itself and droops under the weight of gags and clichés. We learn of the characters' flaws and personal problems in one line and just as quickly, these problems are solved. The themes of the importance of family and believing in yourself are just flat out stated several times and longstanding familial conflicts are easily whisked away with the film's conclusion. But I'm really just reaching here, because I can't exactly say why I didn't enjoy this film. Maybe my hopes were just too high. Maybe, despite my enjoyment of Chocolat and The Brothers, I really do need gratuitous violence to be entertained.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Spy Kids (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Spy Kids (2001) -- VHS
Spy Kids (2001) -- VHS Widescreen
Spy Kids (2001) -- DVD
Spy Kids, a screenplay novelization by Megan Stine -- Paperback
Spy Kids, a storybook by Eliza Willard -- Paperback
Spy Kids: How to Be a Spy, an activity book by Devra N. Speregen -- Paperback
Spy Kids: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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