Juni and Carmen Cortez are back in a dizzying, red-and-blue 3-D adventure sure to thrill kids of all ages—and fry the eyes of everyone else. Spy Kids 3-D puts a lot of emphasis on the 3-D part of its title. Character development, story line, dialogue and acting skills are all tossed out the window in favor of bigger-than-life robots reaching right out of the screen and grabbing moviegoers by their shirt collars.
Juni has left the OSS, disgruntled by the agency’s lack of integrity and disregard for its agents’ personal wellbeing. But his sister, Carmen, is still doing missions, so sooner or later she’s going to need his help. And sooner it is. It turns out she’s trapped inside a virtual reality video game (called Game Over) and he’s the only one who can save her. Inside the game, he must battle the bots, win the “mega-race” and make it to Level 5 before he runs out of time (or lives). To do it he enlists the aid of his wheelchair-bound grandfather, who assumes the identity of a young warrior inside the game, leaping and running with vim and abandon. Will Juni and Grandfather find Carmen in time? Will they disable the evil Toymaker? Will they win the mega-race? Or will it be “game over” in 3-D land?
The Cortez clan is famous for looking after each other, and in this adventure, that doesn’t change. Once Juni learns of his sister’s plight, he never once hesitates in his quest to save her. And when Mom and Dad find out their help is needed as well, they rocket to the rescue, too (literally). Juni has a wonderful relationship with his grandfather, and he cashes in on that bond by calling on him to help when the going gets tough. He promises his grandfather that he’ll look at him as a superhero in the real world even though he can’t run and jump the way he can in the game.
After leaving the OSS, Juni devotes his time to helping people—“saving cats in trees, finding lost toys,” etc. Inside the game, Juni is tempted to break the rules by using contraband maps and cheat codes. When he succumbs to temptation, however, the results are disastrous.
In a chivalrous gesture of good-will—mixed with a little bit of infatuation—Juni gives his life-pack to a girl in the game. [Spoiler Warning] Instead of seeking to destroy the Toymaker for leaving him a cripple 30 years prior, Grandfather seeks him out to tell him he holds no grudges and that he forgives him for his misdeeds. Upon hearing these kind words, the Toymaker nearly bursts into tears, dismantles his plans for world domination and immediately repents of his evil ways. (Corny and simplistic, but certainly a better ending than, say, Grandfather blasting the Toymaker to bits with his rocket-propelled wheelchair.)
Borrowing spiritually tinged word pictures from The Matrix, Spy Kids 3-D spends a fair amount of time dealing with whether Juni is “The Guy.” Inside the game, a group of beta-testers rally around Juni believing he is the The Guy who can lead them to a glorious victory. It’s also made known that there is a Deceiver inside the game who poses as The Guy, hoping to lead gamers down a “path that no one can survive.”
Animated elements mix with live action as hulking robots do battle World Wrestling style, cars crash into each other (the mega-race pays homage to Star Wars’ famous Phantom Menace race scenes) and players fight one another with morphing “battle sticks.” Juni falls from great heights, gets bounced to the moon and back, gets shocked with “lightning bolts,” and is knocked from his race car whereupon he floats along the digital pavement before being picked up by another racer. Various game monsters (including a huge “lava monster” who hurls molten rocks) attack players and are fended off with brute force. A skyscraper-tall robot picks up Carmen and prepares to eat her whole. The Toymaker slaps one of his digital alter egos across the face.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
An OSS agent calls Grandfather a “crazy old man.”
More than once I’ve had to accuse filmmakers of proffering plots more reminiscent of video games than movies. But never have I reviewed a film that actually was a video game. And a pretty tame game at that. No bloody, point-and-shoot carnage here. Kudos to Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez for making a movie with zero profanity, zero sexual content and zero drug/alcohol content. That takes Spy Kids 3 to a dimension most G-rated movies don’t aspire to. And there’s even a good moral to walk away with when the game’s over: play by the rules and forgive your enemies. Not bad for a virtually plotless exercise in 3-D diversion.