Well, my brother just watched this movie the other day, I hadn’t seen it in a while, and I definitely remember liking it, so I figured it would be a pretty decent choice for my first movie review. In it, Carmen and Juni Cortez are two kids whose parents are international spies, which they only find out when their enemies break in and kidnap them and another secret agent has to explain the situation quickly and get the kids to safety before they get kidnapped as well. What follows is a combination of chases, wacky hijinks, action, adventure, drama, and intrigue, as they must escape the enemy agents and their robotic minions, figure out how to work as spies themselves with their new fancy gadgets, and make some unlikely allies along the way.
And…it works. I mean, it’s not some intricate, transcendentalist work of art or something like that, but as a family action-adventure movie with a little sci-fi thrown in, it’s really pretty decent. (Obviously, real espionage is about a hundred times more dangerous and painful than anything that happens in this movie, but hey, having Carmen and Juni get tortured for information or be forced to assassinate people would take away the fun of the movie, no?) I like the interesting gadgets and machines, the background setting, the quirky side characters…Spy Kids is out to entertain, and it certainly does that. While spy movies have probably been done quite a bit by this time (admittedly, the movie has been out since 2001), it had enough interesting twists on it—particularly anything involved with Floop—to feel unique and interesting. It also seems to divide its time between action sequences, worldbuilding, and character interaction pretty well. Even the kidnapped parents got some good scenes, such as the banquet with Floop and the (failed) escape attempt down the halls. The ending was nicely done, too.
I guess one noteworthy thing about the plot of this movie is that there’s not really one single overarching goal that the protagonists are after. There is one main one, which is to get their parents back, but along the way, there are lots of “steps” to complete first.
While the two main characters weren’t that noteworthy, I think the side characters are what really made it work (again, particularly anyone involved with Floop). Though I swear I don’t remember Carmen being so…abrasive when I watched it as a kid…
I don’t generally pay attention to special effects much, but they did a good job making the sci-fi-esque technology (the spy gadgets, the robots, the virtual reality sequences) look believable. Except maybe the “instant food”; that one stretched my suspension of disbelief a bit.
The dialogue was generally pretty decent, though I can’t immediately think of any particularly good lines (though “You’re not that strong, Juni…” might be at least marginally quotable).
Positives: Probably the best thing about this movie is that it’s interesting and mature enough for an adult to watch, yet family-friendly enough to show to kids without really needing to worry (unless they’re pretty little). I can’t think of a lot of shows that I could say that about, especially live-action ones.
Negatives: Remember what I mentioned about Carmen’s personality? Yeah, I’m going to reiterate that. If I remember correctly, she does get better in the sequels, as well as late into this one, but…honestly, she spends an awful lot of the movie acting like kind of a jerk to her brother for no particular reason. I’m also not sure why the heck either of them thought it was a good idea to try melee-attacking the robots after the first failed attempt. After Juni nearly broke his hand trying to punch them, Carmen headconking one could only grant me a reaction of “…You idiot.” (And doing that even to a human isn’t exactly fun…) “You’re not that strong, Juni” indeed. On a related note, I’m pretty sure that you can’t put someone on a merry-go-round and then spin it that fast without either the person or the playground equipment—or both—suffering some significant harm.
Final score: 7
Spy Kids is a pretty good movie for family entertainment, I’d say. Some people might fancy themselves too sophisticated or highbrow for this kind of thing, but then, I could say that about quite a few works of media that are less well-done and less mature than this was. In fact, this actually used to be one of my favorite movies as a kid, along with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as I recall. I would highly recommend it. (Now, excuse me while I sing the theme song from the credits…)