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Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
Review written by: Alex Sandell


Must ... resist ... Spider-Man ... joke. 

After viewing the first in the Spy Kids' series, a 29-year-old friend of mine asked, "why couldn't I have had movies like that when I was a kid?"  Being a huge fan of Spielberg and early Lucas, I was quick to remind him that he had, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Star Wars and numerous other astonishing family films to enjoy during his formative years.  He admitted that movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark were better films, but there was still something about Spy Kids -- something he couldn't put a finger on -- that made him long for a childhood spent in a theater watching the adventures of two pre-teen secret agents.  It didn't take me long to figure out that what he desired wasn't a couple of hours watching Spy Kids when he was a child, but a couple of quality years of being a spy when he was still a kid.   

In the original Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez successfully tapped into this longing for adventure that so many of us have and splashed a million childhood fantasies across the screen, created his best movie to date and invented an instant franchise.  In Spy Kids 2, Rodriguez proves that he is still as enthusiastic about the fantasy world he has fashioned as Spielberg was in directing the little alien who befriended a lonely boy, or as George Lucas was in pouring his heart into a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away.  While Spielberg has grown up and moved away from family oriented material, and Lucas has been busy sucking all life out of his once spectacular Star Wars saga, Rodriguez isn't quite ready to mature and move on and is still too in love with the magical world he created to smother it in a fluffy pillow of ugly CGI and drab dialogue.  

Picking up where the original left off, Robert Rodriguez takes us to even more of the enchanted places we dreamed of visiting when we were kids.  Starting with the theme park full of wild rides that feels as though it was downloaded from a child's fantastical imagination, all the way to the climatic battle on the Island of Lost Dreams, a nostalgic place populated with mutated monsters, warrior skeletons and other fun things who seem to have developed the ability to stop-motion crawl their way out of our favorite monster movies of yesteryear and into their second shot at glory in CGI form, Spy Kids 2 is chockfull of nonstop inventiveness and unadulterated fun.  By the time that you reluctantly leave the theater you realize that the film caused you to give yourself over completely to your inner-child and made you believe nearly everything you saw on the screen, no matter how whimsical it may have been. 

Even if you are able to watch the film with an adult's eye, you will find that it is generally pleasing.  Some of the humor gets a tad too slapstick, and it would have been nice to see the supporting players -- the competing Spy Kids, their father and the mad scientist, in particular -- fleshed out a bit more.  But the acting is delightful, the two main spy kids have charisma in spades, and, as hinted at above, the CGI beasties themselves are a top-notch tribute to stop-motion greats such as Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen.  Only the FX gurus behind Jurassic Park and The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring have put on a more visually pleasing cinematic display of CGI creatures than the one that is shown to us here.  No, what you see isn't realistic, but damn if it doesn't feel real.  The creatures are tangible and three-dimensional.  This is rare for a CGI film, and a welcome change from the flat, lifeless computer generated ick displayed in movies such as Attack of the Clones or Harry Potter.  

So, whether you view this film as a child, with your inner-child, with your own child, or as a curmudgeonly old fart, you'll have to try really hard not to have a fun time with it, and even then you'll probably end up failing.  It's an absolute pleasure and there is something in the movie for nearly everyone.  The actors all seem to be having a blast in the picture.  The family unit seems tight and believable.  The kids seem to enjoy the hell out of being kids.  Even the CGI effects seem to be having a good time.  The gadgets are great, the monsters are better and the Spy Kids are the best.  Why couldn't I have had movies like this when I was a kid?

On a scale of 1-10?

8

Agree? Disagree? Feeling bored and wanna write a letter that you'll probably never get a response to?  Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

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Text (Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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