Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (U)

Arriving hard on the heels of Agent Cody Banks is another action-packed adventure featuring children as secret agents.

In this case it’s the second immensely inventive sequel to Robert (Desperado) Rodriguez’s innovative Spy Kids, where the children of superspies Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) continue to protect the world and humankind from a variety of nefarious villains.

In this one the lead goes to Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) who, having left the world of espionage to become a juvenile private eye, is persuaded to return to the fold when his sister, Carmen, (Alexa Vega) is captured during an investigation of the mysterious Toymaker.

The Toymaker – a fun-filled performance from Sylvester Stallone revisiting his 1970s character acting roots – wants to enslave the world’s youth with mind controls via his new computer game. Carmen went in to halt it but became caught up  in the game. Now Juni must go in after her.

At just 84 minutes Spy Kids 3-D is a rapid yet vapid affair enlivened by Rodriguez’s choice to make the movie in 3-D, which means kids and adults everywhere will have fun with the obligatory 3-D glasses.

As Juni is pitched into the game he is pitted against pogoing toads, walking targets, huge robotic warriors and an array of fellow competitors all of whom are out to win at all costs.

Offered a choice of partner, he drafts in his elderly wheelchair-bound grandfather (the excellent and extremely well preserved Ricardo Montalban) who, within the game, rediscovers the use of his legs.

Throw in cameos from an array of familiar faces – including Elijah Wood, Steve Buscemi, Bill Paxton, Cheech Marin, Alan Cumming and George Clooney as the President of the United States – and Spy Kids 3-D rapidly becomes a rollercoaster ride through the collective minds of computer nerds everywhere.

The 3-D effects, which include the obligatory hands reaching out from the screen and lumps of wreckage barrelling out of the screen at speed, are a welcome change from the standard format but do become wearing on the senses.

Yet the main problem with the film is in Rodriguez’s choice of Sabara to carry the action. The boy – and the film obviously needs a hero as the majority of its audience will be computer mad males – has little charisma and no depth. Then again, this is a 3-D movie about kids trapped in a video game, and not Hamlet.

Still, throwing away the majority of the other characters – the entire Cortez clan are reduced to supporting players in their own film – is a grave mistake and the film barely recovers from it.

With its nods to the likes of Bruce Lee’s Game of Death – fighters have to battle their way through several levels of a mysterious pagoda to reach their prize – and Disney’s Tron, the last computer-orientated adventure of this ilk, Spy Kids 3-D at least attempts to pay tribute to its antecedents.

One can only begin to wonder, however, if the whole exercise hasn’t been set up merely to plug the inevitable video game.

Still, it’s good to see Stallone messing around with multiple characters – mad scientist, good doctor, crazed military type and hippy – even if the whole affair is played resolutely for laughs.

Next up for Rodriguez is another sequel, this time Once Upon a Time in Mexico, his follow-up to Desperado. I wonder who’ll crop up in that for laughs?

Star rating: ***

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