Monday, January 08, 2007

Review: Spy Kids movies

I'm really in the mood for some crazy spy stuff lately. Casino Royale totally fixed everything that's been wrong with the James Bond franchise because it brought the movies into alignment with my beloved Fleming books. But it also means that there's a hole that needs filling. There's a place in this world for over-the-top, wanna be world-conquerors, scantily clad vixens, impossible gadgets, and mind-blowing stunts. I don't want Bond movies to be that place, but I certainly want those things to exist somewhere.

The Spy Kids movies make a good go at filling that void. They're family movies, so forget the scantily clad vixens (Carla Gugino is gorgeous, but unfortunately, no bikini), and the stunts are all CGI, so don't expect too much there, but there are gadgets and over-the-top villains galore and it's been a long time since I've seen such sheer imagination thrown up on a movie screen. Whether it's Alan Cumming as the Willy Wonka-like host of a children's TV show or Steve Buscemi on a mysterious, Ray Harryhausen-inspired island or Sylvester Stallone playing four different roles -- all in desperate need of a hug from Ricardo Montalban -- Robert Rodriguez tosses influences and ideas into the films like a crazy man. And that's a good thing, by the way.
The movies really do need to be seen in order though. My pal Dave saw just the last one and didn't care for it, but I really think that's because he didn't know what to expect. Out of context, it does feel like a lame video-game rip-off, but when you know what Rodriguez did with the first two movies, the third one fits in perfectly as yet another celebration of everything that makes us smile.

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