This one I recommend.

This one I recommend.

The whole spy family is assembled.

The whole spy family is assembled.

Fast and colorful; a lovable kids film

Fast and colorful; a lovable kids film

I’ve mainly been posting reviews of recent/current movies for quite a while now, so I figured it was time to talk about something nostalgic and classic which, like most things that are nostalgic and classic, was ruined by its line of horrid sequels. The film in question: Spy Kids.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez (playing against type, big time), Spy Kids was one of my favourite films growing up and looking at it today I notice that, yeah, it’s still a decent, entertaining little number; children today might still enjoy it and, like the kids of my generation, envy the cool and exciting lives of the two young protagonists.

The plot: Carmen and Juni Cortez (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, respectively) are the two children of former secret OSS agents Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid Cortez (Carla Gugino), who have been living a rather comfy life with their kids ever since they left the spy days behind them. However, when some of their old colleagues (one is played by Mike Judge, for some reason) get kidnapped by an experimenting madman named Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming), who hosts a surreal TV show that would make Tim Burton proud, Gregorio and Ingrid feel nostalgic about their days of yore and decide to track Floop down and rescue the people he’s been using for his twisted experimentations. But alas, they end themselves up in his captivity.

This means it is up to Carmen and Juni to rescue their parents and save the day. With the help of a man pretending to be their uncle (Cheech Marin), they make their way to the home of their actual uncle, Machete, played by Danny Trejo. And yes, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the same Machete as in those other Robert Rodriguez films. That is pretty awesome. Either way, Machete designs all sorts of cool spy gear and soon enough Carmen and Juni have what they need to save their parents from Floop’s castle (which looks an awful lot like the castle from The Dark Crystal), before he also finds the last parts he needs to create his greatest invention yet: a powerful army of robots that are exact copies of famous people’s children. The name of this army? Spy Kids!

A typical episode of 'Floop's Fooglies'.

A typical episode of ‘Floop’s Fooglies’.

Floop, however, may not be as villainous as he seems. After all, the man in charge of the operation is an evil business man played by Robert Patrick and the man performing the actual experiments is Floop’s sleazy minion named, well, Minion (Tony Shalhoub). Teri Hatcher plays an additional baddy who ends up with a bad haircut. Really, all that Floop seems to care about is his TV show and he keeps wondering what it is it needs. More thumb-robots, more deformed “Fooglies”, or maybe… children?

I do like, though, that in spite of what genre they’re playing with here, they don’t really give us a James Bond-esque villain or anything like that. Instead, Floop is like something out of a Tim Burton movie and I wouldn’t be surprised if they initially intended for him to be played by Johnny Depp. That’s not to say that Alan Cumming doesn’t do a fantastic job playing him, though. I especially like a surreal scene towards the middle of the film where we get to hear him sing a Danny Elfman-composed song. But the other actors, of course, are a lot of fun too. The leading kids are very convincing, moreso than your average child actor, and Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino make for a likable couple. Also, you can seldom go wrong with Danny Trejo.

Add to that some great humour, fun action, cool gadgets, memorable dialogue, exhilarating editing and a lovely score and you’ve got yourself a film that holds up to this day. I always wanted to be like these Carmen and Juni growing up, but I believe the appeal wore off once those shoddy sequels were created, so I guess I expected to be let down when re-watching Spy Kids. But no, it is in fact still a really, really fun movie. I advice parents everywhere to show their children this. They will adore it.

The problem with the sequels seems to be that the creators made an incorrect assumption about what exactly people enjoyed about the first film, which is something that tragically happens in Hollywood far too often. In this case, it seems as though Robert Rodriguez thought that it was the brief, but sometimes annoying, cartoon-y slapstick elements that made Spy Kids a good film in the first place. He is not the man I expected to think “Hmm, maybe I should erase all the edgy stuff?”

4/5 whatever

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