ore creative energy unbound than actual storytelling,
"Spy Kids 2" is exactly the kind of movie Robert Rodriguez is known
for. Written, directed, shot, and even edited by the former wunderkind behind
the fabled "El Mariachi", "Spy Kids 2" is a movie built
around a series of CGI-enhanced set pieces. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to
say that Rodriguez came up with the set pieces before he came up with the actual
story, of which there isn't much to hang one's hat on. Even for a PG-rated,
kid-friendly film, the story of "Spy Kids 2" is at best flimsy, and at
Less coherent in narrative than the original, the sequel
punches up the action quotient much the same way Stephen Sommers did with "The
Mummy Returns", which was one nonstop action film tied together by a
loose story. The premise of "Spy Kids 2" brings back junior superspies
(and incidental Mexican-Americans) Carmen (Alexa Vega) and her little brother
Juni (Daryl Sabara) for another round of dangerous missions involving silly
villains and their even sillier henchmen. This time around the villain is Mike
Judge (writer/director of "Office
Space" and the creator of "Beavis and Butthead"), who is less
convincing (and less silly) than the original's villain, Alan Cumming (who has a
Also back are Antonio Banderas ("Femme
Fatale") and Carla Gugino ("The
One") as Carmen and Juni's parents; the two are also spies themselves.
The film also introduces the grandparents of the spy kids, Richardo Montalban
and Holland Taylor, who are also -- yep, you guessed it -- also spies. Actually,
the adults have little to do except bicker and fly around in fancy contraptions
looking for the two missing kid spies. Well actually that last statement isn't
fair, because the kids themselves have little to do, since their main reason to
exist is for filmmaker Rodriguez to delight us with all the brand new groovy
gadgets he's come up with. Let's just say that the stuff these kids haul around
makes James Bond look like a junk dealer.
Which is to say that much of "Spy Kids 2" reeks
of self-indulgence on Rodriguez's part. There's no story here, no real movie,
just a series of scenes where fancy schmancy gadgets get shown for the
"groovy" effect. I guess if you're a kid you might think them neat; I
thought they were overdone and too obviously CGI. Later in the film, the kids
reach a place where their gadgets don't work, and they have to rely on their
brains. Nice little "trust in yourself" theme for the kids, but I
started to miss the gadgets.
Surprisingly, the story of "Spy Kids 2" is even
flimsier than the story of the other teen spy movie, "Agent
Cody Banks". Then again, does anyone care? Like the original, this
sequel doesn't bother with being serious for a single nanosecond. It's all about
playing it goofy and loose, and I suppose that's how everyone should go into the
film. It's not lighthearted fun, it's cheesy and unimportant fun.
Of note is Steve Buscemi ("Ghost
World") who shows up as a Mad Scientist type living on the island of
the subtitle. It's Buscemi's creation, a cloaking device, that Mike Judge's
character seeks. The movie also introduces the world of kiddie spies, including
a scene where all the spy kids and their parents attend an important banquet,
which is really the movie's outstanding sequence. Matthew O'Leary and Emily
Osment also join the cast as another pair of sibling spies, and it's probably
not a coincidence that they're both very Caucasian.
Like a lot of Rodriguez's movies, "Spy Kids 2"
feels a bit choppy. There's no smooth flow, and sometimes the quick cuts and
manic vibe is a bit much. Then again, Rodriguez hasn't changed his style since
"El Mariachi", and I doubt he ever will. This is Rodriguez in a
nutshell. All style and coolness, but very little substance to be found.