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Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Given the mistakes Robert Rodriguez makes with Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, one hopes it's just a trilogy and not a full-fledged franchise. Busting with everything that mars most other family action fare, as well as a poorly-conceived return of a desperate and outdated exhibition gimmick, the picture is pretty much exactly what most people feared the first Spy Kids might be, but worse.

The film starts okay and goes bad quickly. Burned once too often by the OSS, Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) has gone solo. No longer a spy, Juni works as a gumshoe, solving mysteries for pint-sized dames.

Ideawise this works, but right from the gate that Rodriguez spark is missing. The framing is still strong, but not striking. The wit is there, but not all that sharp. Worst of all, none of the editing is there.

Rodriguez burst onto the scene as an economical ball of energy. He looked like the savior of film just as the digital demon was starting to stir. Not a review of his debut, El Mariachi, could be written without dwelling on that mythical figure of $7,000 dollars. Then he turned around and made Desperado, a 35 million dollar movie that actually only cost a fifth of that. With his next few he was shaping up to be a director that understood that it's about cutting film, not checks.

None of that promise exists in Spy Kids 3D. This lumbering blue-screened dud feels more like a Disney Channel Original movie with a bigger budget and less entertainment. Maybe the 3D equipment doesn't allow Rodriguez the movement he's used to. Maybe he was too distracted thinking about Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Maybe his change to digital has actually withered his soul.

The plot revolves around Juni getting drawn back in to the OSS to save his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega), who has been lost in a virtual game world. As soon as Juni enters the game, the audience dons their 3D glasses and no real fun begins.

The game is to go online at midnight; Juni must find Carmen and shut down the game before then, without freeing the evil Toymaker who has designed the game. The Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone) has been imprisoned by the OSS in the game world for many years, or something like that. It's not all that clear, as he has been able to design and market a game in the real world, as well as star in commercials for it.

As a villain the Toymaker is fairly ineffective. He spends his time in some control room doing his best Wicked Witch of the West, peering into the crystal ball thing and arguing with his three companions, himself.

In a turn that will hopefully guarantee he will never attempt comedy again, Stallone plays the Toymaker along with the three aspects of his personality. There's the Warlike Toymaker, the Scientist Toymaker, and the Hippie Toymaker and they are all played with the taut comedic precision that we have come to expect from the star of Oscar and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

On his way through the game, Juni meets some Beta testing kids and calls on the aid of his Grandpa (Ricardo Montalban). Wheelchair bound outside of the game, Montalban's head strains atop an oversized CG body for the rest of the picture. It's a disconcerting image that almost makes one forget his rubber chest from Wrath of Kahn.

The game itself is obviously the least thought-out portion of a poorly thought-out film. It's a non-gamer's idea of what a videogame is like: disparate locations and puzzles that are solved seconds after they are uncovered, mindless robot fights and even more mindless races. Like the picture itself, this game is clumsy spectacle with little to no story to justify lame set pieces.

This is the curse of 3D. Basically, most 3D films are just regular bad movies that occasionally pause the action and the story to swipe at the audiences' faces for no real reason aside from a cheap goose. The problem is the rest of the time, you're just watching a movie through a red lens and a blue one. This means you're only seeing in two tones, and the image is indistinct and murky.

On top of all this, heap clumsy and forced references to Lord of the Rings and The Matrix to no great effect. There's some lesson about family for Juni to learn, except that he doesn't really learn it. Someone tells him a lesson and he remembers it later.

All of the characters from the previous films show up and it's nice to see them but they mostly pop in for the last few minutes in a tossed off ending that makes Desperado's seem overly complex and drawn out. Misfiring in almost every aspect, Spy Kids 3D is at least a contender for the biggest drop off of quality from an original to a sequel.


Jordan Rosa

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