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"Spy Kids"

Directed by Robert Rodriguez.
Written by Robert Rodriguez. 
Starring Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  4/8/01 

(If you are reading this review and have not already gone to see "Memento", shame on you.  Go see it at your soonest opportunity.  Then, you will appear to be "cool" to me again.)


Every so often, I try and catch a kid's film because I like to see what passes for funny or "cool" with the 6-to-12-year-old set for which these films are intended.  And, since my younger sisters can't read most of my movie reviews because of the language included in them, I aim to please the two of them every so often by seeing something that they recommend.

So, I went to the local superplex on Friday to see "Spy Kids."  I had heard decent things about this movie beforehand, and I was further excited by an interview with the film's director, Robert Rodriguez ("From Dusk Till Dawn", "Desperado").  Rodriguez said in the interview that he aimed to make a kid's film that the adults in the audience wouldn't have to suffer through just to make the kids happy.

In the movie, two world-class spies (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino) have retired from the spy game and for nine long years, they have busied themselves with raising their two children, Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara).  After one of the parents' long-time spy friends is captured by the ruthless Floop (Alan Cumming), they get back into the thrill of the hunt...only to be immediately captured by Floop and his henchmen.  The kids spend the remainder of the movie trying to locate their parents and save the world from an army of robots called Spy Kids (they are indestructible and look just like your kids!!) being created at Floop's fortress.

The plot is silly, but that was okay with me given that it was a kids' movie.  And, as in all kid movies like this, the overacting is apparent in every frame; cameos by Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin and Robert Patrick from "The X-Files" add to the fun.  Since the majority of the movie is spent with Carmen and Juni, it is helpful that Vega and Sabara are pretty good in their roles and Vega, in particular, seems to be the one with the most upside for future projects.  Her Carmen is pretty spunky and I liked her tough attitude throughout.  And, Danny Trejo is in "Spy Kids", who for my money has the toughest, meanest face in the history of film.  He plays a gadget maker named Machete in this movie, and even when he is trying to smile, it comes off as painful-looking and tough.  Just Trejo being in this movie gives it a bit of an edge for a PG-rated film.  (You may remember Trejo as the crazy knife-wielding assassin in "Desperado"...when he grits his teeth, you realize that you never want to see the guy in a dark alley.)

The action sequences are pretty cool and the spy gadgetry does the trick.  And, as promised, Rodriguez does manage to slip a couple of funny one-liners into the script that keep the adults in the audience involved.  Overall, this is pretty good stuff...and, for a movie to go from beginning to end without a single gun showing up is pretty impressive, and somehow, Rodriguez managed to do it.  A great movie to take the kids to and not a bad choice for anybody to go check out.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09