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'Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over'

Trilogy's finale feels more video game than movie

Friday, July 25, 2003

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" is not part of a new genre based on video games. It only feels that way.



RATING: PG for action sequences and peril.
STARRING: Daryl Sabara, Alexa Vega, Ricardo Montalban, Sylvester Stallone.
DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez.


In fact, the series finale is more like a video game than a movie.

The "Spy Kids" trilogy has been a different animal all along, thanks to Robert Rodriguez, an indie filmmaker who has served as writer, director, special effects wiz and even musical director. Rodriguez's personal touch gave the first two films a nice family feel to go along with an offbeat sense of humor and even a surreal quality that was part James Bond, part Pee-wee Herman.

"Spy Kids 3-D" tries to dazzle in a different way.

It opens with Alan Cumming (from the first movie) returning to explain and make light of the 3-D effect. We're to put on the glasses provided when the characters give us the clue, or when it says GLASSES ON (most of the movie).

But first the plot must be set. Young Juni Cortez (Darryl Sabara), who has left the OSS agency to become a private eye, is summoned back to headquarters to learn that his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) has been trapped in ... a video game. Her body is at hand, but her mind is stuck in "Game Over," a hot new title that challenges players to win level 5 for a special reward. It was created by The Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), whose real agenda is to capture the minds of children and -- what else? -- take over the world.

Juni's mission is to go in after Carmen. GLASSES ON. Then, wow, we're in the game, too, and the effect is so real it's hard to resist the urge to duck or grab things that seem to be floating right in front of you. Juni finds himself in a mega-robot battle and an amazing race through a sci-fi city.

The sets are really cool and the family-values spirit is intact, as Juni, offered a chance to bring in one family member to help, enlists his handicapped grandfather (Ricardo Montalban). Throughout the game, the good-hearted and befuddled Juni puts others ahead of his own interests.

Likewise, the movie takes a back seat to the gimmick. Rodriguez gets trapped within the limits of the game and there isn't much room for the humor or Cortez family interaction that made the first two films. The laughs certainly don't come from Stallone, who has more fun playing the Toymaker and his three alter egos than we do watching him.

The whole series cast arrives for a finish that's rushed and unsatisfying for how good the series has been.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to climb into a video game, load "Spy Kids 3-D." Just don't go expecting the same "Spy Kids" magic.

Scott Mervis can be reached at or 412-263-2576.

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