My first exposure to Robert Rodriguez was El Mariachi, his first feature on only a thread of a shoestring budget, well documented in his book Rebel Without a Crew. That movie showed some real creativity, kept with its story elements and characters, and Rodriguez was able to launch into a high profile career in Hollywood.
Most of what's come since has been somewhat disappointing. The introduction of real budgets and effects to his moviemaking (and he's not alone in having done this) led to an indulgence that naturally pushed aside such things as character development. And the repeated collaborations with Quentin Tarantino certainly didn't help either. I'll have to review Dusk Til Dawn sometime if I can stand watching it again, just because it's one of the most interesting failed experiments I've seen on film.
The one interesting bit he'd done since hitting the big time was his segment in the Four Rooms collection, which incidently was the inspiration for Spy Kids. Rodriguez is smart, and realized there was something there that could be expanded, did it, and now is all the more successful for it, as this thing has taken off well beyond expectations.
Did I say Rodriguez was smart? He's also talented. He wrote, directed, edited, and handled the special effects for this movie. For Spy Kids 2, he did even more than that.
So then, what of the film itself?
Well, it really is aimed right at its target audience, namely kids. The spy gear, effects, stunts, and even the plot and a fair number of the characters are somewhat cartoony in nature. Rodriguez' effects in some cases get away with a certain amount of computerish unreality because our expectations are pretty well established right away that the laws of nature are only loosely enforced in this world.
They say this movie has something to offer adults as well as kids. To a degree, that's true. It's not a roller coaster ride of juvenile humor, for sure. But there's also not a lot of depth - the few hints of such depth are all diffused or not addressed before the ending.
I am reminded a lot of the last review I posted, for Charlie's Angels. The approaches are similar. Charlie's Angels is a bit slicker and more accessible to us older folks, while Spy Kids is better in terms of Character and Plot, but still not terribly deep on either. They're both simple, non-challenging films to throw in when you need to unwind. Don't expect more and you won't be disappointed.
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