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'Spy Kids 2'

Gadgetry, humor make 'Spy Kids 2' a real blast

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

By Scott Mervis, Weekend Editor, Post-Gazette

You hear all the time about how a movie is entertaining for kids and the parents won't be bored.

"Spy Kids 2"

RATING: PG for action sequences and brief rude humor

STARRING: Antonio Banderas, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara

DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez

WEB SITE: www.spykids2.com


Movie Review
'Spy Kids'

Local movie showtimes


"Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams" was so good, it was me dragging them back to see it again -- not that they didn't go willingly; they'll do anything for candy. Guess what: the second time, it was even better.

How can you miss when you've got James Bond gadgetry, Indiana Jones adventure and Jurassic Park the zoo version, plus a brilliant turn by Steve Buscemi as the mad scientist?

Well, you could miss -- by a mile -- in the hands of a hack director. But Robert Rodriguez, who writes, directs, produces and even composes music for the "Spy Kids" films, does it all with such taste and imagination, you can get through the entire movie without rolling your eyes.

"Spy Kids 2" picks up the exploits of the Cortez family, led by spy dad Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and spy mom Ingrid (Carla Gugino), one fine-looking set of parents. Returning as spy siblings are Carmen (Alexa Vega), beginning to mature into an attractive teen-ager, and Juni (Daryl Sabara), still looking like Danny Partridge's chubby brother.

Carmen and Juni find themselves undermined by another set of spy kids, the Giggles (Matt O'Leary and Emily Osment), whose father, Donnagan (Mike Judge), aspires to take over the OSS by any means possible.

The kids are equipped with all the best gadgets, such as jet-pack shoes, laser weapons, various inflatables and watches that click open to form holographic tracking devices, maps and Internet access. Gadget wiz Machete (Danny Trejo) loaded the Cortez watches with so much there was no room for a clock. Of course, the Giggles have it all, plus the time.

The OSS's hottest mission will take the Cortez and Giggles kids to a remote island where a reclusive genetic scientist has created some thingamajig that can control the world's power and a Noah's Ark of mix-and-match zoo creatures, including a flying pig he calls "Spork."

Buscemi, with his cracked glasses and whacked dental work, is a benevolent creator who trembles at his experiment run amok and actually gets to say -- in a kids' movie! -- "Do you think God stays in heaven because he fears, too, what he created on Earth?" Wow.

Elsewhere, the dialogue isn't that lofty, which is one of the charms of Rodriguez's series. The Cortez kids bicker in the exact way siblings do. Banderas has the chance to be as suave as ever and still laugh at himself -- even more so in the sequel, playing off of his disapproving in-laws, Holland Taylor (a senior judge from "The Practice") and, surprisingly, Ricardo Montalban. The abundance of Hispanic actors in "Spy Kids 2" (did we mention Cheech Marin?) just adds another exotic element to the proceedings.

Rodriguez obviously had a blast making "Spy Kids," from the quirky casting to the earthy set designs to the special effects, which include skeletons in a sword fight.

As fun as it must be to make, it's even more so to watch.

Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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