Our review of Spy Kids 3: Game Over (Blu-ray), published August 22nd, 2011, is also available.
3rd Mission. 3rd Dimension.
Third time's the charm? Not in this case. Robert Rodriguez's attempt to create a film that his family would enjoy hit the mark the first time. The original Spy Kids is a fun, charming film that entertained children and adults alike. Buoyed by the success of that first film, we soon saw the Spy Kids on The Island of Lost Dreams. The charm and creativity of the premiere film was missing in the cute sequel, yet it still retained enough to make it a decent film. So, yet again, Rodriguez dipped into the well to round out his kiddie fare films with this tepid and lifeless third installment. He should have left well enough alone and stopped at one, but he tempted fate and gave us a sad farewell to Juni and Carmen Cortez.
Facts of the Case
Juni Cortez, now retired from the OSS, is working around town as a private investigator. He's taking little cases to make some money so that he can purchase the greatest videogame ever, "Game Over." But just as he's ready to buy this game, the OSS drags him back in to service to help save the day. It turns out that the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone, Cliffhanger) created this game with the intention of controlling the minds of every child who enters the virtual reality world of the game. Juni's sister Carmen was sent into the game to destroy it, but she was captured by the Toymaker. Now, only Juni has the skills necessary to get into the game, save his sister, and destroy the game before it can ensnare the minds of children around the world.
The world of "Game Over" is composed of five different and challenging levels. Along the way, Juni will make some friends and some enemies. Fortunately, the OSS is able to send in one additional person to help Juni in his quest, and Juni chooses his grandfather (Ricardo Montalban, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Though trapped in a wheelchair in the real world, Grandpa has the ability to use his legs again in the virtual reality world. To Juni's and the OSS' surprise, it turns out Grandpa and the Toymaker have tangled before.
Will Juni be able to rescue his sister? Will the Spy Kids be able to destroy "Game Over" before it takes control of the children of the world? What history do Grandpa and the Toymaker share?
I am just one of the many people out there who were surprised and delighted by the original Spy Kids film. It was outrageous and silly fun. Though nowhere near as good as the original, The Island of Lost Dreams made a great attempt at recapturing the charm of its predecessor. But this latest entry to the series utterly fails at capturing the energy of the other films, and it ends up ruining the franchise. Instead of solidly closing out the series, Game Over tarnishes the good memories and made me wish I hadn't seen this one.
As you know by now, the hook for this third film was that it was in 3-D. The hook was almost enough to draw me to see it in the theaters, but then I realized that I've never seen a good 3-D movie. You can interpret that statement in either of two ways: (1) the 3-D effects themselves are poor and/or (2) the movie itself is a clunker. In the past few decades, we've had the dubious honor of such 3-D duds as Jaws 3 and Friday the 13th Part 3. I'm sure there have been some other memorable films in the interim, but none of them stand out for me. It would seem that we are no longer destined to have a good 3-D film made. But, these characters and their history seemed to have the right stuff for a good film, and Rodriguez's panache for digital wizardry looked to be a lock to get it right. But it doesn't. Game Over is quite simply a horrendously lousy film.
From my standpoint, Rodriguez sold out. Because of the success of the first two films, Rodriguez decided to make this a trilogy and cash in on his good luck. As you'll learn in the bonus materials, Rodriguez adapted a completely different story onto the Spy Kids world. The story that becomes Game Over never had Juni or Carmen Cortez, let alone the rest of the clan, in it. It never existed in the preposterously unique land of the OSS. And it is painfully obvious that this is the case as you watch the movie. Aside from Juni and Grandpa, nearly every other member of the Cortez clan is merely a cameo. There was no use for them, so scenes were patched together simply to get them in the film. As such, this film isn't Spy Kids at all. It isn't about kids who are spies, it's about a kid who happened to be a spy who is now trapped inside a game. (Let me emphasize the word kid: it's Juni's film. Carmen doesn't even show up until fifty minutes into the film—keeping in mind the running time is about eighty-five minutes. Why not? Because there's nothing for her to do, and she's not a kid anymore. She's quite the young woman, as you'll note in the bonus features.) The spying is long gone. Sometimes change is good but not this time.
This lame, piecemeal film has greater problems than even the lack of adherence to its own world. In a word, it's the acting. Filled with cameos by just about everyone from the past two films, Game Over doesn't allow any of the characters to do much. They basically have a few lines to toss away and then move on. Unfortunately, most of these cameos fail because it all feels forced. From Floop to Minion to Dink to Machete to the Giggles, all of these actors seemed to have not had enough time to rediscover their characters. You can almost understand and forgive them for that transgression, if you know and understand the Rodriguez way of filmmaking. However, there are bigger problems afoot from the big baddie, the Toymaker, terribly and painfully portrayed by Sylvester Stallone. We all know Stallone's a pretty weak actor who's had moments of brilliance (Cop Land), moments of mediocrity (Cliffhanger), and moments of utter incompetence (Get Carter). I had the unfortunate honor of seeing Stallone in Get Carter a few years back and had always labeled that as his worst performance ever—even worse than his over-the-top job in Rambo 3—but his turn in this film has moved to the top of the list. Sylvester Stallone is absolutely horrid in Game Over. Instead of coming across as megalomaniacal, the Toymaker is just inept and stupid. Stallone breathes no life, no fun, no humor into his role. He's just a slab of meat poorly reciting his lines with no idea of how to be funny or menacing. (Also reference Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Rhinestone for other failed comedic attempts.)
But even if we could somehow get past the uninspired acting and the excuse for a script, the entire hook of Game Over fails the movie. As I said, I didn't see this film in the theaters so I have no idea how good the 3-D looked on the big screen, but at home, it looked bad on my TV. Let me remind you that I have a widescreen projection TV with a progressive scan DVD player hooked up via component cables. That's a pretty good signal transfer. But, the 3-D was lacking. It had a few moments of fun and clarity, but it never jumped out at me. That's really not a significant problem, as I have pretty low standards for 3-D films. My bigger concern was that as I watched the movie with my uncomfortable pair of glasses, I didn't enjoy it because everything was washed out. All of the colors disappeared and details were lost, replaced by murky 3-D effects in a red and blue tinged world. I hated it. Game Over is supposed to be a visual candyland of virtual reality, but with the glasses on, it's all lost. You can't appreciate the backgrounds and details when watching it in 3-D.
Fortunately, a 2-D version of the movie is included on a second disc in this release. This time, without having to wear the glasses, you have a chance to experience the visual marvels of the film. You can embrace the vibrant palette as you take in all the marvelous details of this game world. The movie finally comes alive and you can enjoy it without the failed trickery of that elusive third dimension. As it's yet another digital film, there are absolutely no errors to be found. My video judgment score on the right reflects my take from the 2-D version of the film; otherwise, it would have been much, much lower. Further, as you're no longer focusing every ounce of attention on the 3-D of the film, the 2-D version also allows you to enjoy the soundtrack, a very nice and balanced Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. You'll be able to appreciate the clean dialogue and excellent use of effects from all the channels. You'll have no qualms when you crank this one up.
This "collector's series" edition of Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over does have some bonus materials to meander through. For some reason, each disc lists all of the bonus materials, yet most are only found on the second disc. The special features are:
• 10 Minute Film School: The latest installment in the series is
the least interesting one I have seen (though I haven't seen the one of
SK2) as it solely talks about the abundance of green screen work on the
film. Also of note is that the film school lasts only 6.5 minutes, because the
last 3.5 minutes is spent showing you home movies with sound effects. Rodriguez
tries to pass it off as a lesson in sound effects, but it's a cop-out for not
having a better ten minute film school.
Though mentioned by Rodriguez on his commentary track, there are no bloopers.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Hey look, it's Tron!
Hey look, it's MechWarrior!
I'm highly disappointed with this film. It simply isn't fun, as it was never meant to be part of this franchise. In his rush to capitalize on the series' success (and rushing to use Alexa before she became even less of a "kid"), Rodriguez made a very bad film. His original concept for Spy Kids was great, but he kept pushing and pushing and pushing too far. Rodriguez did it with his Desperado trilogy and he does it again here. He needs to know when to stop and let a movie retain its special charm. Though he claims to be a rogue, non-Hollywood outsider, he certainly falls prey to sequelitis.
With no hesitation in my mind, do not rent or buy this DVD. No matter how much you liked the first two, this one is completely unworthy of your money. Just wait a few more months for it to appear on cable, and then you'll see just how much of an insult it is to the delightful world we once knew.
Robert Rodriguez is hereby found guilty of ruining his Spy Kids franchise. He is sentenced to never make more than one sequel to any of his future films.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
• Contains Both 3-D and 2-D Versions of the Film
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