Spy Kids/B+, A
Dimension/2000/88/ANA 1.85

     Spy Kids is delightful. The first half of the film is so engagingly inventive that the pace almost has to slow considerably, but writer/director Robert Rodriguez displays great affinity for the material. He knows kids, he knows what they like and he can translates it into a package that delights adults as well. The gizmos are terrific, but the characters make or break a story and Rodriguez’s inspired creation of the spy family is wonderful. Even Rodriguez's villainous creation Floop is pretty good. 
    What's it all about? Once upon a time there was this guy spy and girl spy who worked for different organizations, but somehow they got together, fell in love and slipped away from an active role in the business to bring up a family. They had two kids, Carman (about 12) and Juni (about 10). Only they really didn't shuck the spy garb completely as their young kids soon find out.
They are pulled back into the game by a plot to take over world power. When Gregorio Cortez (The name is a nod to the fine Indie film The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.) and wife Ingrid rush into action to save the world, Carman and Juni are forced to dig deep into their genetic heritage to show off what their own spy prowess. 
     Production design is a joy ride. Futurist work is consistently entertaining. The array of characters are thoroughly enjoyable, and believe, a Thumb isn't just a thumb. Rodriguez gets more comic mileage out of his Thumbs than a string of hands end on end from here to Oz. 
    Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara are okay as the Cortez kids, but while they may be at the center of the adventure, Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino mom as pop Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez, along with Alan Cumming as Floop deliver precious performances that keep Spy Kids spinning at a dizzying 120rpms.  Cumming underplays Floop to extraordinary effect. Banderas finds the right combo of self-mocking machismo and Gugino is a welcome fresh face. Terry Hatcher has a good hair day as a former Cortez colleague.
    Welcome family fun from a director fueled by the joy of filmmaking!

All Thumbs up! ©Dimension

    The DVD is kaleidoscope of color, richly saturated, almost as exciting as Willy Wonka’s marvelous variety of sweet treats. Colors retain their space meticulously. Spy Kids packs enough picture pizzazz for several DVDs rolled into one. It's consistently bright with excellent contrast range. All the wonderful production details are sharply defined as is the delight reflected in the eyes of the actors.  The Dolby Digital 5:1surround is thoroughly engaging and exciting with outstanding directionality.  Too bad this was not delivered as a special edition. Probing Rodriguez's fertile imagination would have made a great audio commentary. 




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Robert A. Harris
Robert Harris:Tilting at Hollywood
Tilting at Hollywood

He's part of the dynamic duo that restored Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, My Fair Lady and Vertigo. Harris rides a white horse into the for the cause of preserving our film legacy. Click on the image to read more.