Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

Spy Kids 2

USA, 2002. Rated PG. 100 minutes.

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Carla Cugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Steve Buscemi, Mike Judge, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Matthew O'Leary, Emily Osment, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Alan Cumming
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Music: John Debney, Robert Rodriguez
Cinematographer: Robert Rodriguez
Producers: Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez
Director: Robert Rodriguez


Grade: B- Review by Frances Nicole Rogers

M ovies made generally for children are like rabbits: They spawn sequels as rapidly as you can snap your fingers. Observe Disney's almighty VHS/DVD franchise, if you will. How many sequels have come out of their animated "masterpieces"? I can't come up with a plausible reason for this massive reproductive phenomenon outside of the fact that children love to watch TV, therefore they love to see their favorite fictional characters go through different adventures. That, and kiddie movies do massive business, hence the promise that children's favorite characters will return for a new adventure also equals big, if not bigger, bucks.

This is why we have Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, sequel to last year's smash Spy Kids and the second of an apparent trilogy of spy kids films from director/writer/producer/composer/etc Robert Rodriguez. Kids looking for a new, bigger adventure will get it. Adult fans looking for a bigger, better, and more magical movie than the original will, of course, be slightly disappointed. Sequelitis has plagued our beloved miniature spies (played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara); ambition has gotten the better of them. They're (slightly) bigger, more occupied, and better equipped with ultracool Izzy Machete gadgets. The first Spy Kids avoided sinking without a very detailed storyline, but The Island of Lost Dreams loses itself in its attempt at being more ambitious than the original. It's fun to watch, anyway.

The initial premise of Spy Kids 2 has something to do with a magnetic contraption that could destroy the Earth, a strange coalition of magnetic-hat-wearing men bent on getting the aforementioned contraption, the director of the OSS (don't ask me what it means, but it's a top spy organization), rival spy kids Gary and Girti Giggles (Mathew O'Leary and Emily Osment), the President's daughter, and a dangerous mission no adult spy has ever completed successfully. Carmen Cortez (Vega) and her dopey little brother Juni (Sabara) set out to prove themselves as top spies when their family is passed over for the plum gig in favor of the Giggles. Alexa Vega and Daryl SabaraMatters are only made worse when Juni is framed for robbery and fired from the OSS because of it. Stuck in between all of this is a cute-but-useless subplot concerning Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) and in-laws (Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor), who are, of course, nosy and bossy.

Though I admire Rodriguez for his ambition, his rush to make a sequel has apparently squashed any chance this movie had of being better than the original. Instead, Spy Kids 2 is a mildly entertaining, Ray Harryhausen-style romp that lacks the fun childlike magic and humor of the original. If Rodriguez hadn't abandoned all the interesting aspects of the first half (including the movie's, umm, villain) in lieu of showcasing CGI mutated monsters, Spy Kids 2 would, at least, have been a wee bit more exciting. It also would have been funnier if the characters hadn't abandoned their cheeky innocence for a more smug, professional attitude. Where is the blissfully ignorant Juni Cortez that lightened up the last movie so? Alas! He is gone! Gone! Turned into the family-values-pushing, President's-daughter-flirting, top junior spy with ambitions. All these changes make me wary of the third sequel due next year.

Rodriguez and John Debney did succeed in writing an excellent score. Danny Elfman's part in the film's music did not reach beyond writing a theme. Which theme it is, I do not know, though I have a fleeting suspicion it has something to do with a character named Floop (Alan Cumming). Rodriguez has acknowledged the influence of the movies of Ray Harryhausen (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts), especially those scored by Bernard Herrmann, on The Island of Lost Dreams. The score's striking similarity to the sound and feel of Herrmann's compositions is astounding, though Herrmannism in film scores is very much en vogue right now.

As for the performances, well, it's a children's movie. Does it really matter? Most of the primary cast members handle their roles well, as does some of the supporting cast. Vega and Sabara have matured well into their roles, though the new professional attitude of their characters comes off as dull onscreen. Banderas fits nicely in his "just a dad" role and handles the movie's exaggerated comedy well.

What made the original so good for me was its ability to hold up to multiple viewings. Even after watching it twice in one day, the magic still remains; the humor is still funny. Can we say the same for Spy Kids 2? I don't know. I'll have to see it again (not that I'm totally against that idea). I know for sure that there's a certain kind of magic missing from this movie that makes it pale in comparison to the original.

The kids will like it, though.

Review © September 2002 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images 2002 Miramax Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.

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