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Movie Review

Siblings Carmen and Juni Cortez, now an integral part of the OSS spy-erarchy, are Level-2 secret agents assigned to missions requiring their preadolescent talents. In fact, there’s an entire network of young operatives now working hand-in-hand with their elders to keep bad guys at bay. Two such agents are opportunistic brats Gary and Gerti Giggles, whose ambitious father is vying for the top job at OSS against none other than Gregorio, Carmen and Juni’s dad. Gary is a scurrilous charmer who has Carmen fooled into thinking he’s a dreamboat. The precocious Gerti doesn’t bother concealing her contempt for those she considers beneath her. Rivals working on the same team, the Cortez and Giggles sibs find themselves part of a diabolical plot to rule the world. It strands them on a mysterious island inhabited by bizarre creatures birthed by an eccentric geneticist. Their competitive quest for a coveted cloaking device takes the children on a video game-like journey filled with dangerous encounters made all the more difficult when a force field renders all of their superspy gizmos inoperative. Carmen and Juni must rely on their own instincts and raw determination to conquer Harryhausen-esque monsters and save the day. But they can’t do it alone. Once again, it takes the efforts of the entire Cortez family—including former OSS spies Grandma and Grandpa—to finally set things right.

positive elements: More great morals about family unity. Juni has reached an age when he seems to need his father’s help less, which makes Gregorio feel put out to pasture. Near the end of the film, Juni assures his Dad that, in spite of his growing independence, "I’ll always need you." Although Carmen and Juni bicker and belittle each other now and then, they share a deep love and support one another when it matters (Carmen even dives into the mouth of a volcano to snatch her brother from certain death). Any misunderstandings or petty squabbles are resolved, and Juni even resists gloating when Carmen admits that he was right about Gary being trouble. When Gary asks Carmen if he can dance with her, Juni pipes up, "Family rules say you have to ask my father for permission." When Gary horns in on a rescue and wants to share glory with Juni so that they "both look good," Juni tells him, "I’m not doing this for looks." The rescue is of Alexandra, the President’s young daughter, who so desperately wants to know that her Dad cares about her that she puts herself in grave danger just to have him come to her aid. Her alienation from her father is a message to all workaholics to reconnect with their kids. Juni is crushed when circumstances prevent him from keeping a promise he makes to Alexandra. He advises her to lovingly confront her father about his failure to connect, and keep the lines of communication open. Gary argues that "a good spy makes no binding connections with family or friends," a notion which Juni rejects. Carmen says that, by definition, "family is sacrifice." The Cortez kids sacrifice themselves to save their parents and their parents are ready to do the same for them. Despite being on the outs with his in-laws, Gregorio is also prepared to give his life for them. Carmen and Gerti discuss knowing what’s "right" and having the strength to do it (which Gerti does when the moment arrives). Juni’s kindness to a half-spider/half-monkey pays off when the creature saves him from another mutant. When Juni tells Carmen that Gary is a young man of questionable character, she replies, "Maybe I know that. I think I can change him." (While noble and optimistic, this same dangerous assumption often leads Christian teens to attempt "missionary dating." Fortunately, the film shows it to be folly.)

spiritual content: Genetic scientist Romero refers to wildlife as "God’s creations." A recluse, frightened of the beasts he has unleashed on the island, he wonders aloud if God stays in heaven because He fears that which He has created.

sexual content: None, though under the closing credits Carmen takes the stage to sing a pop tune that involves jiggy dance moves and a bare midriff.

violent content: Lots of hand-to-hand combat, physical humor and mild action violence. At a formal dinner, villains drug the adults and battle with the kids (hitting, kicking, judo moves, etc.). Spoofing wild amusement park rides and our culture’s lust for adrenaline rushes, the movie’s opening scene features ridiculously dangerous and violent rides (one called The Vomiter showers bystanders with barf). Carmen thwacks Juni rather hard with an elastic band. Juni’s electronic "pet" named Ralph gets squashed (presumed dead, he reappears later merely wounded). Carmen and Juni fight off an army of sword-wielding skeletons, sending several careening off a cliff. Before reaching the island, kids are battered by a huge, two-headed sea serpent. There’s a showdown between computer-generated beasties. Gregorio and Donnagon duke it out mano a mano. Carmen punches Gary in the face.

crude or profane language: Once again, Carmen gets away with an s-word by saying "shiitake mushrooms" with a strategically placed pause. But it’s more blatant this time. Instead of a simple "Oh shitake mushrooms," she tells Gary, "You are so full of shiitake mushrooms." Aside from that, the only expressions that would give parents (of young children) pause are "my butt," "poop," "kick his butt," etc. Carmen calls Juni a "dope."

drug and alcohol content: Adults have their champagne spiked with a sleep-inducing drug. When offered a glass of bubbly, Juni declines and tells the waiter incredulously that he’s not supposed to have any.

other negative elements: A fully equipped spy craft boasts an automated nose-picker. Gary and Gerti are swallowed up in a mound of camel dung (we see Gary spit some out of his mouth). Even though it’s meant to help her brother, Carmen illegally hacks into the OSS computer to disrupt the system and create deceptions.

conclusion: The original Spy Kids was a shockingly pleasant surprise and a big summer hit thanks to amazing production values and family values. Look for more of the same in the sequel. The gadgets and vehicles are still fun. A parade of old and new characters keeps things interesting, helped by inspired casting (even confined to a flying wheelchair, Montalban is a commanding screen presence). Add cool creatures and subtle winks at classic fantasy films (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of the Rings, etc.), and parents will enjoy this adventure as much as kids will. A few crude moments and the one quasi-profanity are disappointing, but for older children and adults, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams provides more entertaining, action-packed commentary on family ties.

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Credits

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PG

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Cast

Antonio Banderas as Gregorio Cortez; Carla Gugino as Ingrid Cortez; Alexa Vega as Carmen Cortez; Daryl Sabara as Juni Cortez; Matthew O’Leary as Gary Giggles; Emily Osment as Gerti Giggles; Ricardo Montalban as Grandpa; Holland Taylor as Grandma; Steve Buscemi as Romero; Taylor Momsen as Alexandra; Mike Judge as Donnagon; with brief appearances by Alan Cumming as Fegan Floop; Tony Shalhoub as Alexander Minion; Christopher Macdonald as the President; Cheech Marin as Felix Gumm; Danny Trejo as Machete; Bill Paxton as Theme Park Owner

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Dimension Films

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Reviewer

Bob Smithouser

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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