Lionsgate // 2003 // 84 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // August 22nd, 2011
The game is over!
While the first two installments in the energetic series proved that relatively small budgets and scripts filled with big ideas can indeed go hand in hand, Spy Kids 3: Game Over takes a big step back. Not only does this sequel fall flat in the entertainment department, but it also drifts away from the fresh concept Rodriguez spent a lot of time developing in the previous two films.
As the third flick opens, Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara, Machete) is no longer with the OSS, and instead of saving the world, he's leading a boring existence as a detective. Things start to heat up pretty quickly though when his former employers beg him to return to lead a dangerous mission. As it turns out, his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega, From Prada to Nada) is trapped inside a groundbreaking new video game, and the only way to free her is to enter the game's virtual world and make it to the highest level. On top of that, the OSS also asks Juni to hunt down the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone, Rambo), a ruthless villain who created the game to control the minds of the players and use them to take over the world.
As much as the first two Spy Kids flicks proved Robert Rodriguez was very eager to bring his wild imagination to the big screen, Spy Kids 3 shows us he clearly didn't plan for this movie to be originally part of the franchise. A good case in point is one of the behind-the-scenes featurettes, during which Rodriguez even reveals he took the idea he had for a completely different script and literally adapted it to the Spy Kids world. I'm sure he meant well and all, but his plan eventually failed.
For whatever reason, Rodriguez decided to make this third film all about Juni, which explains why Spy Kids 3 boasts a very different feel than its predecessors. Had this been a full-fledged Spy Kids movie, the story would've obviously focused on how both Juni and Carmen work together to free the world from evil. Unfortunately, it takes a whopping 41 minutes of the film's 84-minute running time until we first get to see Carmen. As a result, the dynamic relationship and energetic teamwork between the two is no longer a crucial part of the plot, and for the most part Juni's on his own.
Despite the lack of what made the first two films so great, Spy Kids 3 is not a total disaster. The virtual world Rodriguez created as part of the video game boasts strong colors and compelling creatures, and parts of the challenges Juni encounters on his journey even feature energetic action sequences. Rodriguez is a dab hand at generating fast-paced storylines and introducing fun twists throughout these flicks, and luckily enough, he succeeds in keeping things moving at a swift pace.
While the acting was an essential part of the success of the previous two films, it falls rather flat in this third adventure. Sabara and Vega turn in decent performances, but the material they are working with this time around doesn't really provide them with any opportunities to shine. Don't expect to see any of the brilliant character development we're used to; Juni and Carmen don't get to learn very much in Spy Kids 3. Rodriguez also made sure to bring back every other character from Spy Kids and its sequel, but sadly enough, most of them show up for brief cameos only. Finally, the worst part about this film is Sylvester Stallone, who's supposed to portray yet another goofy villain but fails to come across as even remotely hilarious. Not only is his Toymaker anything but threatening, but he's also one of the dumbest characters I've ever seen in a kids flick.
One final comment about the digital world Rodriguez created in Spy Kids 3. While his decision to shoot pretty much the entire film in front of the green screen enabled him to be as creative with special effects as he would like to be, the amount of CGI shots we have to watch is a bit too high for my taste. Rodriguez clearly overdoes it with his gimmick, and truth be told, a fair number of the computer-generated visuals look both cheesy and cheap. It definitely takes away from the overall viewing experience.
On Blu-ray, this third Spy Kids movie looks superb. The DVD offers the feature film in a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation, and the picture quality hits all the right notes, boasting strong colors and a crisp image. The DTS-HD Master audio track deserves nothing but praise as well. The bonus material includes an informative audio commentary, several entertaining behind-the-scenes featurettes and footage from the film's premiere -- at which Alexa Vega took the stage to sing some Spy Kids songs. While the standard DVD release also included a 3D version of the film, this release solely features the 2D version. A second disc carries a digital copy.
Spy Kids 3: Game Over isn't as much fun as its predecessors. The script is really all there is to blame, because Rodriguez had the same resources at his disposal. Changing up the formula we've grown to love didn't work out, and what we're left with is a mediocre installment that fails to live up to the awesomeness of the previous two flicks.
Game over indeed. Guilty!
Review content copyright © 2011 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG