The original Spy Kids is a refreshingly empowering story about two kids Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) and his older sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) who find out their seemingly normal parents are really secret über-agents. The sequel Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams cranked the silliness level up a notch as the kids now full-fledged spies themselves go on a gadget-filled adventure that's a cross between The Island of Dr. Moreau and a lowbrow '70s Sinbad B-movie. The third in the series Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over thankfully keeps things simpler--much of the action takes place inside the virtual reality world of a 3-D video game. Carmen is sent in by spy central OSS to shut the game down before its mastermind the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone--yes you heard right) can take over the world with it. When she becomes trapped within the complicated machinations of the game OSS agent Cesca Giggles (Salma Hayek) asks Juni who has left the agency to rescue her. The spy sibs must rely on their humor lightning-quick reflexes and bravery to get through the tough challenges but they know they need more than just their wits to accomplish their mission--they also need the help of friends and family to foil the bad guy. This same feel-good message about the importance of family prevalent in the other two Spy Kids carries over in Spy Kids 3-D and is wrapped up in a more plausible (and I use this term loosely) story than its predecessor. Still neither sequel lives up to the original.
The two young leads really don't put out a tremendous amount of effort in this third Spy Kids installment. Nothing new springs up in their performances but this time around it's Sabara who gets more face time than Vega. The film focuses on Juni and his feelings of inadequacy surrounded by a family of spies as well as his worries they never spend enough time together due to their obligations. Sabara plays him with the same wide-eyed curiosity stumbling along into one action-packed stunt after another and never quite understanding how he does it all so well but knowing he has to help his sister at any cost. On the other hand the effortlessly competent Carmen played by the ever-feisty Vega seems destined for spy greatness. As far as the adults go Ricardo Montalban reprises his role as the kids' wheelchair-bound grandfather who's got a personal vendetta against the Toymaker. He joins Juni in his quest and is transformed in virtual reality into a giant walking robot. Not bad for an old guy. Speaking of old guys Stallone popping up as a wacky villain is a surprise but what's more surprising is how well he pulls it off. The actor certainly deserves to have a little fun once in awhile and he milks the schizophrenic Toymaker (who has other personas come to life to add to the hilarity) for all it's worth. Also look out for a slew of cameos from the past films including Antonio Banderas Carla Gugino Steve Buscemi and Bill Paxton.
Writer/director Robert Rodriguez is really just a big kid at heart--a big kid who obviously watched a lot of cheesy movies in his youth. Like the second Spy Kids which definitely took a few ideas from those Sinbad movies Spy Kids 3-D seems heavily inspired by the 1982 Disney flick Tron which for its time was fairly innovative in special effects. Tron also takes place within a computer program and the similarities between the two films is hard to miss especially in the pivotal car race that takes place in each film. Of course Rodriguez has more technology at his disposal making Spy Kids 3-D crisper visually and even more exciting in its action sequences. It'll appeal to those X-Boxers out there who secretly wish they could be zapped into the game for a little real-life confrontation. And the so-called icing on the cake? The entire movie is in 3-D. Yet it's not entirely clear why 3-D technology is actually needed with a film like this. Sure it makes things more interesting to watch--that is if your glasses actually work (mine didn't)--but the film could have easily been just as visually stimulating without the sensation of being touched by a giant mechanical claw.