Film: Spy Kids

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Spy Kids

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Distributor: Dimension/Walt Disney Home Video

Bursting with an awesome array of ultracool, high-tech gadgetry, Spy Kids delivers enough thrilling entertainment to satisfy the entire family! Nine years ago, top international spies Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) traded the excitement of espionage for the adventure of parenthood! But when they’re called out on a secret mission, the Cortezes are separated from their family and kidnapped by the evil Fegan Floop. Fortunately, there are two people who possess the skills and know-how to reunite the family: Carmen and Juni Cortez, their kids! Your family will love every fun-filled second as Carmen and Juni bravely crisscross the globe in a thrilling quest to save their parents. All the while, they discover that keeping the family together is the most important mission in the world for kids and parents alike!


Carmen and Juni Cortez will soon find out that their favorite bedtime story, “The Spies Who Fell in Love,” is really the story of their parents. So begins this affable fantasy, a James Bond adventure for wee ones with all the trimmings. When Dad and Mom (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) mess up their first mission after coming out of retirement, their kids must come to the rescue, equipped with some cool gadgets. The Cortez family gets involved in a bizarre plot hatched by a Pee-wee Herman-type entertainer named Fegan Floop (a wonderfully hammy Alan Cumming) that’s as giddy as it is ridiculous. Needless to say there is plenty of derring-do concerning long-lost uncles, goofy monsters, double agents, evil robots, look-alikes, and energized chases. Did we mention the gadgets? Although Banderas and Gugino make terrific impressions, the movie is carried (as it should be) by the younger Cortezes, winningly played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara. Who would have thought an action/horror studio (Dimension) and writer-director Robert Rodriguez had this pleasing family film up their sleeves? Rodriquez (who produced with his wife Elizabeth Avellán) seemed to be mired in cheesy horror films but here breaks out by capitalizing on the talent that gave him instant status with his debut, El Mariachi (1992). Spy Kids has plenty of verve but never swerves into potty humor (OK, there is one good potty joke) or wicked gunplay. All 7-year-olds should have a film as fun as this in their movie-going lives. —Doug Thomas

Barnes and Noble

It’s highly unusual for a studio to re-release one of its spring hits late in the summer, which is what Columbia chose to do with Spy Kids; ostensibly, cynics will say, to make a few more bucks while alerting fans to its imminent arrival on home video. But in truth, this unusual marketing approach only serves to underscore this surprise hit’s unique and likely enduring appeal. Indie maverick Robert Rodriguez, who wowed action fans with his studio debut (Desperado) and avoided the sophomore jinx in his dazzling horror flick From Dusk ‘til Dawn, brings exhilarating stylistic bravado to this wonderful fantasy. The setup sounds almost goofy: Self-confident Carmen and her insecure younger brother Juni Cortez have decidedly uncool parents—but when a demented children’s show host and his twisted minion capture Mom and Dad, the siblings spring to their rescue and discover that (whoa!) their folks are actually international superspies! In Rodriguez’s imaginative hands, though, the payoff on this ridiculousness is absolutely sublime. As Carmen and Juni (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, respectively) strap on the rocket-packs to save Mom and Dad (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino), the sense of gee-whiz adventure is irresistible. Alan Cumming and Tony Shalhoub make perfect villains, embodying genuine comic-book evil in their plot to rule the world using an army of cloned kiddie robots. Multiple viewings only enhance enjoyment of this pint-size Bondian adventure with its clever script, perfect casting, way-cool gadgets, and awesome special effects. Parents will especially appreciate that, save for one poop joke (okay, and it’s a good one), there is no bathroom humor. And at a time when Washington is taking Hollywood to task for marketing inappropriate films to youngsters, here is a film that promotes family values. Count on the Cortezes to spy again together in sequels, and for imitators to follow in Rodriguez’s creative trail. Donald Liebenson

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