Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams - PG
Best for: Kids 5 and up, and adults who enjoy fantasy.
The plot: The Cortez family is back on another adventure, but this time it's not Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) who get the choice assignment. Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) take on their own mission, saving the attention-seeking daughter (Taylor Momsen) of the president of the United States. Before they can save the day, they are upstaged by the Giggles, a rival brother (Matt O Leary) and sister (Emily Osment) Spy kid team who also work for the O.S.S.
At a special awards ceremony, Donnagan Giggles (Mike Judge) mysteriously becomes the new head of the O.S.S. Soon afterward, the waiters drug the adults and steal a "transmooker" device that renders all spy gadgets useless. Carmen and Juni set out to recover the device and prove they are the best Spy kids team, but their skills are challenged when they arrive at a mysterious island filled with bizarre, genetically altered creatures created by a strange scientist (Steve Buscemi). Their Spy kid rivals follow close behind them, as well as Mr. Giggles and his army of agents.
When things get tough, the family sticks together. This time Carmen and Juni get a little help from not only their parents, but from their Spy grandparents (Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor) as well. Once again, family is the important theme, proving that a family who spies together, stays together!
The good: Writer/director Robert Rodriguez has once again created the kind of movie every kid can enjoy. It appeals to things kids love and dream about: going on exciting adventures, wearing hip clothes, playing with cool gadgets, flying solo in fun machines, having hip parents and grandparents who are also spies and being part of a very loving family that sticks together. This time around the kids are the focus of the story, with Vega and Sabara carrying most of the movie. The two are comfortable in their roles and have great chemistry together, which makes their scenes even better to watch. The inclusion of the grandparents as part of the Spy family is an extra treat. Montalban is a class act, and using him as Ingrid's father was a great idea.
The original Spy Kids was written and created entirely by Rodriguez, who literally made the movie by himself. This time around he tops himself, using lots and lots of incredible special effects, a witty and entertaining script, and a plot that moves briskly. Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo are back in their respective roles, as is Alan Cumming as Floop (but he's only featured in a cameo and doesn't get much screen time). There are a few surprise cameos, including a hilarious performance from Bill Paxton as an owner of one of the coolest theme parks in the world (the rides are a parent's worst nightmare). My favorite part was the mysterious island. Can you imagine a pig that can fly? A half-spider/half-monkey? A two-headed sea dragon? Skeletons that can sword-fight (Rodriguez's tribute to Ray Harryhausen)? Can you envision a miniature version of the giant ones chasing you around the island? Some of those segments reminded me of the old Sinbad or Aladdin, movies with humans being chased by bizarre creatures and battling for their lives. There's plenty of humor that kids may not get (my favorite is a Lord of the Rings joke), but overall, it's an adventure that will please all ages.
The bad: I was disappointed that we don't see more of Banderas and Gugino, who were so good in the first one and are the main appeal for parents. Because Rodriguez chose to focus on the kids and give them more power and prominence in the story, the parents almost take a back seat and have their parental authority undermined. They end up becoming sort of bumbling tagalongs who play a small part in helping solve the case. I wanted to see more parent/child scenes and more interaction between all four, but there were only a few. The island has a few creatures could give younger children bad dreams.
Offensive language and behavior: Kid-slang like "brat," or "I'm gonna kick your butt." In one scene Carmen says, "You're so full of shitake mushrooms!" Several of the characters have attitudes, rebellious behavior, want attention or act snobbish.
Sexual situations: None.
Violence: Lots of action, chase scenes between the Spy kids, creatures fighting each other and chasing after the kids. A few scenes that could be called playful teasing between brother and sister, although the behavior is a little mean. One scene shows Juni sword-fighting a band of skeletons.
Parental advisory: This is a fun film the whole family can enjoy, but it's a little scarier and more intense than the first film (because of the weird creatures). Parents with kids who are prone to nightmares may need to be there to cover the kids' eyes.
It's a wrap: This has been a summer filled with great family friendly entertainment, making it hard for parents to choose what to take their kids to see. This movie is a safe bet to please both kids and parents, and it has some redeeming family values to talk about afterward. I like that the family unit is reinforced (especially with the grandparents) and no one gets seriously hurt or injured. Rodriguez is one of those Hollywood producer/writer/directors who made violent adult films (El Mariachi, Desperado) but decided to make something his children could actually see and enjoy. It's people like Rodriguez who are changing Hollywood for the better, and I want to encourage you to support that effort.
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams - PG